Summer Food Service Program InformationAdministrative and operational information and guidance for organizations that participate in the program.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) federally-funded program that reimburses sponsors for administrative and operational costs to provide meals for children 18 years of age and younger during periods when they are out of school for fifteen (15) or more consecutive school days. Good nutrition is essential for learning in school. The SFSP provides an opportunity to continue a child's physical and social development while providing nutritious meals during vacation periods from school. Participation in the SFSP helps children return to school ready to learn.
How to Contact Us
For more program information, please contact the SFSP staff of the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) by phone at 800-952-5609, or the SFSP office technician at 916-322-8323. You can also contact the SFSP Team by e-mail at SFSP@cde.ca.gov.
Summer Meal Locations
Summer Meal Service Sites and Sponsors
A list of locations where children may receive free nutritious meals during school vacation and off-track periods.
- Sponsor Essentials
- Meal Questions
- Guidance and Resources
New SFSP Sponsor Essentials
The following information is for all organizations interested in applying to the SFSP as new sponsors. Please read the following information regarding eligibility, financial viability, administrative capability, and operational requirements.
Who can be an SFSP sponsor?
Eligible SFSP sponsors include public or private nonprofit school food authorities (SFA); public or private nonprofit colleges or universities; public or private nonprofit residential summer camps; units of local, county, municipal, state, or federal governments; or any other type of tax-exempt private nonprofit organizations. Special rules apply to private nonprofit organizations. Private nonprofit sponsors must be tax-exempt under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRS) of 1986.
Although faith-based organizations must be tax-exempt, there is no federal requirement that they provide documentation of their tax-exempt status. Faith-based organizations are the only private nonprofit organizations not required to provide the NSD with documentation of federal tax-exempt status; all other private nonprofit organizations must provide documentation from the IRS of their tax-exempt status.
Faith-based organizations must meet the eligibility standards as described in the following questions.
What are some basic eligibility requirements for becoming an SFSP sponsor?
- A potential SFSP sponsor must not have been declared seriously deficient or terminated from the SFSP or any other federal child nutrition program in previous years.
- The potential sponsor’s nonprofit organization must not have been on the National Disqualification List for seven years (this includes personnel).
- Nonprofit organizations that have outstanding judgments, liens, or unpaid debts cannot participate in the SFSP.
- Ensure that personnel with outstanding judgments, liens, or unpaid debts do not have management responsibilities or decisions over SFSP funds.
- All sponsors who plan to operate the SFSP must be registered with the Secretary of State in order to conduct business in California.
Registration may take as long as four weeks to be completed, so sponsors must plan ahead to complete this process before being approved to operate.
What are financial eligibility requirements for becoming an SFSP sponsor?
Potential sponsors must be able to demonstrate that they are financially viable. Financial viability means providing proof that a potential sponsor is able to make all program-related payments when such payments become due. This includes, but is not limited to:
- All food costs
- Rental agreements
- Labor costs
- Transportation costs
- Other program activity costs
In addition, if a potential sponsor does not have a central kitchen to prepare their own food and must enter into a food service vending agreement or contract, they must have the finances to pay the contractor for meals ordered before receiving any SFSP reimbursement.
Potential sponsors will need to provide the CDE with financial documentation (tax returns or bank statements) indicating that they have a present net value that is positive, taking all costs (existing and future) into account.
What are the essential administrative eligibility requirements to become an SFSP sponsor?
SFSP sponsors must be able to assume responsibility for the entire administration of the program. As a sponsor, an organization at a minimum is required to:
- Complete the state agency’s training
- Locate and recruit eligible sites
- Hire, train, and supervise staff and volunteers
- Competitively procure food to be prepared/contract with a food vendor for delivery of meals
- Monitor all sites
- Prepare claims for reimbursement
- Ensure that the sites are sustainable
- Maintain all program documents for three years, plus the current year
Sponsors must also ensure that their sponsorship and sites are sustainable through:
- Community partnerships
- Volunteer recruitment
Organizations may not contract or delegate SFSP responsibilities below the sponsor level. This means your organization must oversee SFSP operations and monitor sites in accordance with Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7CFR) Part 225. For more information regarding the SFSP 7CFR, Part 225, please visit the USDA SFSP Regulations Web page .
For organizations not yet ready to take on sponsor responsibilities, participation as a site under an existing sponsor is the best option. This is the most effective way to prepare an organization to become a sponsor in future years.
How can my organization become an SFSP sponsor?
Once a nonprofit organization has made the decision to become an SFSP sponsor, they will need to contact the SFSP team by phone.
An SFSP program specialist will conduct a brief prescreening questionnaire and will follow-up with an e-mail containing an SFSP Introduction Packet. The Introduction Packet includes specific program information and a list of essential documents needed to apply to become an SFSP sponsor.
After the necessary documents have been submitted to the CDE, an SFSP program specialist will review each document to ensure that the nonprofit organization is a viable candidate for becoming an SFSP sponsor. If all the documents are approved, the program specialist will schedule the nonprofit organization to complete the federally-mandated training.
Once the mandatory training has been completed, a designated representative or representatives (from the nonprofit organization) will learn how to operate the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). The CNIPS is a user-friendly Web-based management tool that allows both the CDE and SFSP sponsors to manage the program and enables sponsors to submit their meal claims. Two essential components of the CNIPS include the development of a management plan and a financial budget.
During the approval process organizations must:
- Consider where they want to serve meals
- Determine the number of days they want to operate
- Specify the times they will operate
Potential sponsors will also need to decide who they will choose to help serve the meals.
When your CNIPS application is complete, a specialist will schedule a preapproval visit to your organization. This mandatory visit includes an overview of the SFSP program and an evaluation of the sponsor’s ability to efficiently operate the program. The preapproval visit must be completed before the application can be approved.
Please Note: All application procedures including the CNIPS application are due 45 days before the beginning of meal service and no later than June 1, whichever comes first. Applications submitted after June 1 will not be processed.
Sponsor Meal Site Eligibility, Meal Preparation, and Meal Service Questions
Prospective new and returning sponsors can find more information regarding meal services, food types, kitchen requirements, purchase of ready to serve meals, nutritional guidelines and more, in the following questions.
What are meal site types?
Sponsors may operate the SFSP at one or more sites, which are the actual locations where meals are served and children eat in a supervised setting. Eligible sites are those that serve children in low-income areas or those that serve specific groups of low-income children. Sponsors must provide documentation that proposed sites meet the income eligibility criteria required by law. There are three common types of sites: open sites, camps (residential and nonresidential), and closed enrolled sites.
What are open sites?
These are meal sites where meals are available to any child from the community.
Open sites are located in needy areas where 50 percent or more of the children residing in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price (F/RP) school meals.
Meals are made available to all children in the area on a first-come, first-serve basis. Participant enrollment is not necessary at an open site.
What are closed enrolled sites?
These sites are open only to enrolled children or to an identified group of children, as opposed to the community at large.
Closed enrolled sites are usually established where:
- An identified group of needy children live in a pocket of poverty
- Identified low-income children are transported to a congregate meal site located in an area with less than 50 percent eligible children
- A program provides recreational, cultural, religious, or other types of organized activities for a specific group of children
These types of sites are open only to enrolled children or to an identified group of children, as opposed to the community at large. Closed enrolled sites must also establish their eligibility either through the individual income eligibility of the children attending the site or through area eligibility.
To establish eligibility based on the income of the individual children, sites must collect household applications. At least 50 percent of the enrolled children at the site must be eligible for F/RP school meals.
Instead of determining the individual income eligibility of each enrolled child, a site may document its status as a closed enrolled site by using area eligibility information, as described in the next section. This may only be used if the site is serving children that live in the area in which the site is located.
What are camp sites?
These are sites that offer regularly scheduled food service along with organized activities for enrolled residential or day campers. The camp receives reimbursement only for meals served to enrolled children who qualify for F/RP meals.
Camps can be residential or nonresidential day camps which offer regularly scheduled food service as part of an organized program for enrolled children.
In residential camps, participants spend the duration of the organized program in a 24-hour supervised care setting and receive a regularly scheduled food service.
Sponsors of nonresidential camp sites must offer a continuous schedule of organized cultural or recreational programs for enrolled children between meal services.
Unlike open, restricted open, and closed enrolled sites, sponsors of both residential and nonresidential camps do not have to establish area eligibility. However, they must collect and maintain individual household applications.
Camps are reimbursed only for those enrolled children who meet the F/RP eligibility standards.
Other specialized site types include:
- For-profit sites
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP) operated sites
- Tribal government sites
- Rural sites Migrant sites
- Continuous school calendar/year-round sites
- The National Youth Sports Program sites
- Upward Bound sites
- Mobile sites Farmers market sites
Check with your SFSP program specialist for guidance if you are interested in establishing any of these site types.
It is important that a sponsor adequately evaluate the needs and resources of the area they hope to serve before making final plans for site operations. Online mapping and other data tools can be used to locate high-need, eligible areas and potential sites, such as libraries, schools, museums, and low-income housing units.
When sponsors have chosen their prospective sites, they must notify their local health department in writing of all prospective site locations and arrange for prompt and regular trash removal.
How is site type eligibility determined?
The two primary sources of data that may be used to determine whether the area that will be served is eligible are school data and census data. There are online mapping tools available that are used to determine site eligibility. Please contact your assigned program specialist to learn more about these tools.
What are available choices of meal preparation options?
Sponsors have a choice of either having their summer meals vended, or preparing the meals themselves, or both.
The following explains these choices:
Self-preparation (Self-prep) Sponsor
This sponsor type prepares their own meals to serve and does not contract with a food service management company (FSMC) for unitized meals (with or without milk) or for management services. Sponsors that choose this option have maximum control over the quality of preparation and related expenses. Self-prep sponsors also receive the higher administrative reimbursement rate.
For those sponsors choosing the self-prep option, a valid kitchen permit must be obtained from the sponsor’s county environmental health department.
There are 58 counties within the state of California. Each county may have certain requirements that other counties do not. Some counties waive inspection and/or permit fees for nonprofit organizations, while other counties may charge a fee. Some counties are able to complete the kitchen inspections and issue permits within a few weeks, while other counties require notification months in advance.
Sponsors will need to contact their individual county environmental health department in order to find out what the steps are required for obtaining kitchen permit(s).
Some sponsors have self-prep kitchen locations in different counties. The sponsor will need to contact each county environmental health department the kitchens are located in, and coordinate with each county inspector.
Sponsors that will prepare their own food must also contact their local county environmental health department for guidance and proper certificates for food preparation staff.
Preparing food includes the following:
- Washing, cutting or opening cans/packages of any fruits or vegetable
- Pouring milk
- Reheating food
- Placing food onto plates
- Any other direct contact with food items
Sponsors must submit their kitchen permit, health permit, and food handler certificates when they submit their SFSP application. The inspection and permitting process can take months to complete, so sponsors need to plan accordingly in order to meet application deadlines.
Summer meal program sponsors who do not have a central kitchen to prepare their own meals can purchase unitized meals, with or without milk, from a commercial vendor. Meal vendors can be a school or commercial food vender, a school food authority (SFA), a community kitchen, a hospital, or a local caterer.
Sponsors must enter into a contractual agreement with the commercial food vendor or SFA and a copy of the Vended Meal Agreement must be submitted with the sponsor’s application.
Working with a vendor to procure quality summer meals can be a particularly challenging process. Unlike self-prep sponsors, sponsors who use commercial food venders have to communicate their expectations to an external organization and may have to deal with a variety of frustrations including late deliveries, lack of variety, frozen sandwiches, having food delivered at inappropriate temperatures, and ensuring their documentation meets all program regulations.
Sponsors who contract for meals from vendors that are not public or private schools, and whose contracts for those meals would total more than $150,000 during a program year, must complete a bid package.
Federal law requires that sponsors conduct an open and competitive bid process so that all interested vendors have the opportunity to bid for the summer meals contract. The sponsor signs a contract with the vendor that is ultimately selected.
The bidding process can be time consuming. It is recommended to start early!
What types of meals can be served?
Open and closed enrolled sites can be approved to serve up to two types of meals. Allowable meal combinations for these types of sites are:
- Breakfast only/lunch only/snack only/supper only
- Breakfast and lunch
- Breakfast and snack
- Breakfast and supper
- Two snacks
Migrant and camp sites can be approved to serve up to three types of meals. Allowable meal combinations for these types of sites are:
- Breakfast/lunch and supper
- Lunch only/snack only/supper only
- Breakfast and lunch
- Breakfast and snack
- Breakfast and supper
Two snacks may also be served by migrant and camp sites.
What type of food must be served?
All meals and snacks must follow the SFSP meal pattern as prescribed by the USDA. For more details regarding meal patterns please visit the USDA SFSP Meal Patterns Web page at USDA SFSP Meal Patterns .
When can I begin serving meals?
The SFSP operates when school is out for 15 or more consecutive school days, primarily during the summer months. A sponsor may also provide meals during vacation breaks in schools that are operated on a year-round basis or a continuous school calendar, or during emergency school closures from October through April.
How is school data used?
Sponsors can use school data to establish area eligibility, excluding camps. In order for a site to be determined area eligible, school data must indicate that the proposed meal site is located in a school attendance area where at least 50 percent of the children are eligible for F/RP school meals.
Sponsors may use data from elementary, middle, or high schools as long as the site is located in the attendance area of the school. This data should be based on the percentage of children in the school attendance area in which the site is located that are certified eligible for F/RP school meals, not the actual school meal participation rates. In most cases, current-year school data provides the most accurate representation of an area’s current economic circumstances.
How is census data used?
Sponsors may document the area eligibility of their proposed open or restricted open sites on the basis of census data. SFSP sites that choose to establish eligibility using census data are required to use the most recent data available. Once area eligibility is established, the duration of determination for site eligibility is five years. Eligibility must then be reassessed every five years for SFSP sites relying on census data to establish eligibility.
Sponsors can use either Census Block Groups (CBG) or Census Tracts to determine SFSP site eligibility. Sites located in a CBG or Census Tract where 50 percent or more of the children are eligible for F/RP school meals are considered area eligible.
What is Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Data?
As an alternative to collecting individual applications for F/RP meals, CEP allows schools and local educational agencies (LEA) with a high percentage of low-income children to offer free meals to all students. Qualifying schools serve free lunch and breakfast through the NSLP and the School Breakfast Program.
How are sponsors reimbursed?
A sponsor submits monthly claims in order to receive reimbursement. The SFSP reimburses sponsors by the number of eligible meals served multiplied by the current reimbursement rate, regardless of the sponsor's administrative and/or operating expenses.
California Department of Education (CDE) Current Reimbursement Rates
Scroll down the page to find SFSP annual reimbursement rates.
Meal Claims Submission Deadlines and Meal Claims Technical Assistance
SFSP Meal Claim Deadlines.
New and Returning Sponsor Training
Is sponsor training available?
Yes, annual mandatory training is required for all SFSP sponsors. The trainings are available online each spring. All sponsors are required to complete the California Professional Nutrition Education and Training Center (Cal-Pro-NET) online training. The training topics include, but are not limited to:
- Purpose of the program
- Site types and determining eligibility
- Vended meal contracts
- Menu records for the self-preparation sponsor
- How reimbursement works
- Administrative review
- Nondiscrimination compliance
For further information regarding mandatory training please contact the SFSP by phone at 916-322-8323 and you will be directed to a program specialist. You can also contact the SFSP Team by e-mail at SFSP@cde.ca.gov.
SFSP Procurement Standards
All new and returning sponsors must fully adhere to the USDA regulations regarding procurement of food, supplies, goods, and other services.
What must SFSP sponsors know about federal and state procurement regulations?
Chapter 6, page 83, of the 2016 USDA SFSP Administrative Guidance For Sponsors states the following:
All procurement of food, supplies, goods, and other services with Program funds by sponsors must comply with procurement standards prescribed in Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals, and Other Non-Profit Organizations located at 2 CFR Part 200 as well as 7 CFR Part 225. Procurement standards are specifically located in 7 CFR Part 225.17 and 2 CFR Part 200.317-326. (Note: Parts 3016 and Part 3019 have been superseded by 2 CFR Part 200 as adopted and supplemented by USDA in 2 CFR Part 400 for the SFSP and other Child Nutrition Programs.)
You can view Webinar training videos and additional information regarding SFSP procurement policies and procedures on the Procurement Training–Community Nutrition Programs Web page.
You can also view detailed regulatory language regarding this subject on the U.S. Government Publishing Office Electronic Code of Federal Regulations, Title 2: Grants and Agreements, Part 200—Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, Procurement Standards Web page.
SFSP Program Guidance and Program Resources
Where can I find guidance, manuals, and resources for the SFSP?
The most recent federal regulatory administrative manuals, management bulletins, and other materials needed for proper administration of the SFSP can be found in the following Web pages:
USDA program guides for SFSP sponsors.
USDA Policy Memos
SFSP policy and program regulations.
Summer Food Management Bulletins
CDE notifications clarifying USDA policy memos.
SFSP Forms Page
Essential forms and documents for SFSP sponsors.
Food Buying Guide
Essential food procurement and meal pattern details.
Innovative Strategies to Operate the SFSP
USDA suggestions to successfully promote and operate the SFSP.
United Way Sacramento Summer Lunchbox
A combination of resources to help sponsors and community partners make summer meals the best they can be.
USDA SFSP Best Practices
From Kick-off Events to Utilizing Data, an essential compilation of information for all SFSP program operators.
Offering Healthy Summer Meals That Kids Enjoy
USDA tips and resources on how to liven up summer meals for children's appetites. Summer program operators please note this package can be ordered for free from the Web page link.
USDA SFSP One Pagers-How To Participate In Summer Meals
Helpful one page documents to assist sponsors and site supervisors.
SFSP Outreach Resources
How can I help feed more children in the community?
The following are links to information on how to encourage and increase sponsor and site participation, reach out to underserved areas, promote the summer meal programs to families, and partner with other summer meal sponsors.
USDA Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit Web Page
Essential suggestions on how to promote community and family participation in the summer meal programs.
Power Up For Summer Fun!
A USDA listing of key SFSP resources for new and existing sponsors can be found on the USDA SFSP Web page under Spotlights.
Summer Meal Coalition Web Page
California Summer Meal Coalition Partnership Information.
SFSP Tri-fold Brochure (DOC; Dated Nov-2015)
Brochure to promote the SFSP in California.
Summer Meals Family Flyer (DOC; Dated Nov-2015)
A half page flyer to promote summer meal sites to families and caregivers.
Available Translations of the Summer Meals Family Flyer
How can I receive regular announcements from the SFSP?
Summer Food Service Program Information by e-mail
Sign up for our e-mail list to receive regular announcements.