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Improving Access to Summer Meals

California Department of Education
Official Letter
California Department of Education
Official Letter

February 10, 2012

Dear County and District Superintendents and Direct-Funded Charter School Administrators:


I am asking you to take a few small steps to ensure that your students have access to nutritious meals during the summer. More and more children go hungry every day, and I encourage all of you to help ensure that hungry children are fed when school is out for summer break.

As a longtime advocate for students’ health, I am committed to helping California students make healthy choices. I launched the Team California for Healthy Kids campaign to focus on making healthy eating and physical activity accessible throughout the day in schools, before and after school, in early childhood programs, and in communities. The goals of the Team California campaign are to increase physical activity and improve access to water, fresh foods, and salad bars. One of the three core values of the campaign is local participation in all federal child nutrition programs, including the summer meal program. Please help me support the campaign and its core values by ensuring that students have access to summer meal programs in your community.

Research indicates that children’s mental alertness and cognitive development improve when they consume nutritious meals. Research also suggests that hunger during the summer is increasing, thus interfering with students’ development. Children who eat nutritious meals and participate in safe activities during the summer are more creative and productive in school and at home. Summer meal programs enhance these enrichment activities, which improve student attendance and engagement and help combat childhood obesity.

Summer Meal Programs

The California Department of Education (CDE) administers two summer meal programs that provide nutritious meals for disadvantaged children: the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO). Despite rigorous outreach efforts, we saw a reduction in summer feeding sites throughout California school districts last year. We need your help to turn this around! It is extremely important that these programs become more accessible to our students, and I strongly encourage schools to participate in one of these summer meal programs.

What Can You Do?
  • Make your schools (that are not hosting summer school) SFSP sites to help needy and potentially hungry children in your community.

  • Locate your summer school sessions at sites where at least 50 percent of students enrolled are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. By establishing summer schools at these sites, you will be able to provide meals to students who are attending summer school as well as children in the surrounding community.

  • Expand access to summer meal programs by supporting operators at sites throughout the community as either a program sponsor or a meal vendor. Many schools coordinate with recreation districts and community organizations to provide their students with summer meals in safe settings when local schools close for the summer.

  • Share information with students and parents in June about where and when summer meal sites will operate nearby. Recently enacted federal law (the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010) requires that school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program distribute information to parents regarding the availability and location of summer food service program meals.
CDE Resources

The CDE has created an interactive Web page with a map of California that lists these sites. You can find links to information about summer meal service sites, including the interactive map, on the CDE Food Programs Web page at

Still not sure which summer option is best for your district or school? Please visit the CDE Summer Food Service Web page for general information about our summer programs.

Other Support

For additional information, success stories, and tools for running a successful summer program, please visit our partners from the California Summer Meal Program Coalition at the California Center for Research on Women and Families Web site at

Thank you in advance for considering what you can do to increase the number of California’s children receiving healthy, nutritious meals during the summer months. If you have questions regarding the Summer Food Service Program, please contact one of the Summer Food Specialists in the Nutrition Services Division:

Summer Food Specialist
Phone Number
Toll-Free Phone Number
Melissa Garza
Dennis Arena
Mary Thomas
Janeen Dodson

If you have any questions regarding the SSFO or the State Meal Mandate, please contact Donna Reedy, School Nutrition Program Unit Specialist, Nutrition Services Division, by phone at 916-327-5866 or 800-952-5609, or by e-mail at


Tom Torlakson


Last Reviewed: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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