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Promoting Nutrition in Summer Meals

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy

Date: May 2014

Number: SFSP-05-2014 and SNP-15-2014

To: Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Feeding Option Program Sponsors

Attention: Food Service and Program Directors

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum SP 04-2014 and SFSP 04-2014

Subject: Promoting Nutrition in Summer Meals

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for sponsors of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) with regard to promoting a variety of nutritious and appealing foods to summer meal participants. 

The SFSP and the SSFO were established to ensure that low-income children continue to have access to nutritious meals when school is not in session. To meet this need, sponsors and sites are encouraged to take steps toward improving the nutritional quality, variety, and appeal of summer meals served.  
Solicitations for food service management companies should specify the minimum meal patterns per program regulations. Sponsors can also create solicitations that allow bidders to go beyond those minimum requirements in order to ensure more nutritious, fresher, and higher quality foods for the participants.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Foods

SFSP sponsors may be eligible to receive USDA Foods for use in summer meals either directly from the California Department of Education (CDE) or from the local school food authority (SFA). USDA Foods can help stretch food budgets, meet meal pattern requirements, and meet the highest safety and nutrition standards. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, lean protein (including meat and poultry), and other healthy food choices are available from USDA’s Food Distribution Programs Web page at or the CDE’s Food Distribution Program Web page at

Local Foods

Summer is a perfect time to incorporate the bountiful harvest of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local foods. No matter the size of the summer meal operation, there are many options for finding and sourcing local foods. Program sponsors may choose to purchase foods directly from local farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. In some areas, producers have organized into cooperatives, aggregating their products and combining their marketing efforts. These groups are more likely than a single producer to be able to fulfill large orders, to deliver directly to SFSP sponsors, and to provide some minimal processing. Some, but not all, cooperative efforts to pool products are known as “food hubs.”

Mainline distributors and food service management companies are also able to accommodate requests for local products. In many instances, working through distributors to bring local products into summer programs can be easier than sourcing foods directly. Another tool for purchasing local foods, called Geographic Preference, is particularly useful in formal solicitations where respondents are ranked and scored.

For more information about purchasing local foods using the Geographic Preference option, please refer to the following USDA Policy Memoranda:

Resources for School Sponsors

Program regulations require that SFAs participating in the SSFO serve meals meeting the new NSLP meal pattern. As a reminder, the USDA issued comprehensive guidance for the SSFO to make accommodations for open and restricted open sites with regard to granting flexibility to the age and grade level of its participants. These flexibilities increase the ability of SFAs with diverse student populations to more easily participate in the SSFO, while still meeting meal pattern requirements. Please refer to USDA Policy Memorandum SP 32-2013: 2013 Edition of Q&As for the NSLP’s Seamless Summer Option, available on the USDA School Meals Policy Web page at

Participating SFAs have the option of either following the meal pattern requirements of the school meal programs or the SFSP program requirements (Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations [7 CFR], Section 225.16[f][1]). Prior approval is not required before substituting one meal pattern for the other; however, your program specialist at the CDE should be notified if meal patterns change. This option allows SFAs to seamlessly continue implementation of the NSLP meal pattern requirements year round.

Program sponsors may also benefit from the wide variety of nutrition education resources available at the USDA Team Nutrition Web page at Many of the resources in the Team Nutrition library can be used to reinforce and complement the nutrition messages taught by serving nutritious foods in the SFSP.

Summer Food Service Program Meal Patterns for Children Under Six and for Teens
The quantities of each food component required for the SFSP meal pattern are designed for children between the ages of six and twelve. However, SFSP sponsors may serve meals to children of other ages at SFSP sites. Sponsors or site operators should understand the following guidance for the minimum required amounts of food that are suitable for all participating children.

Meal patterns for children under six: Sponsors are allowed, with CDE authorization, to serve food in smaller quantities than indicated in the SFSP meal pattern to children under six years of age (7 CFR, Section 225.16[f][2]). The sponsor must be able to ensure that variations in portion size are in accordance with the age levels of the children served. Sponsors wishing to serve infants under 12 months of age need additional approval from the CDE. In all of these cases, the sponsor must follow the age-appropriate meal pattern requirements under Child and Adult Care Food Program regulations (7 CFR, Section 226.20). The form of the food items served should be appropriate to the children’s feeding abilities so they can be easily consumed during the meal service period. For example, sponsors should cut fruit into smaller pieces so it is easier for the younger children to eat.

Meal patterns for teens: The regulations also allow children ages twelve to eighteen to be served larger portions than the minimum amounts of food specified in the SFSP meal pattern, based on the greater food needs of older children (7 CFR Section 225.16[d]). There are no maximum limits on any of the food components in the SFSP meal pattern. To improve the nutrition of participating children, additional foods may be served (7 CFR, Section 225.16[f][8]). However, additional foods purchased with program funds must meet meal pattern requirements, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, in order for sponsors to receive reimbursement for the meals. For additional information, refer to USDA Policy Memorandum SFSP 06-2012: Serving Additional Foods in the SFSP, available on the USDA SFSP Policy Web page at

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact the appropriate Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC) or County Program Specialist for your agency.

School Nutrition Program (SNP): The SNP County Specialist list is available in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Download Forms section, Form ID: Caseload SNP. You can also contact Lori Porter, CNC, Southern SNP Unit, by phone at 916-322-1454 or by e-mail at

SFSP: The SFSP County Specialist list is available in the CNIPS Download Forms section, Form ID: SFSP 01. You can also contact Barbara Barlow, SFSP CNC, by phone at 916-327-6071 or by e-mail

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, July 27, 2015

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