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Summer Food Service Program Information

Administrative 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.

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.


Summer Meal Programs Final Rule Update

On September 19, 2022, the USDA announced that the Final Rule entitled Streamlining Program Requirements and Improving Integrity in the SFSP was published in the Federal Register. The Final Rule codified changes to SFSP regulations that will streamline requirements among child nutrition programs, simplify the application process, enhance monitoring requirements, offer more clarity on existing requirements, and provide more discretion at the state agency level to manage program operations. To learn more about the final rule, please visit the Summer Meal Programs Final Rule Update - Nutrition (CA Dept of Education) web page.

SFSP Application Deadline

As of October 1, 2019, the CDE requires that all new SFSP applicants and returning sponsors submit complete and correct SFSP application packets through the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) no later than 30 calendar days prior to the first SFSP meal service day, or May 15, whichever comes first. These deadlines do not apply to sponsors applying to serve in areas impacted by an unanticipated school closure during the period from October through April (or at any time of the year in an area with continuous school calendar).

For more information please view the CDE SFSP Application Deadlines Management Bulletin.

California Farm to Summer (F2Summer) Week

F2Summer is a national initiative sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) meant to connect children with local agriculture and nutrition education. Participating sponsors nationwide that currently offer a summer meal program conduct a number of activities during California F2Summer week. This includes serving local foods, offering F2Summer enrichment activities, or promoting their F2Summer activities. For more information on the national F2Summer initiative, please visit the FNS Farm to Summer web page External link opens in new window or tab..

CNIPS Job Aids for SFSP Sponsors

New and returning sponsors can learn more about how to complete various portions of the CNIPS Application by navigating to the CNIPS Download Forms and selecting any of the following CNIPS Form ID Job Aids:

  • SFSP Job Aid 1-Introduction to CNIPS
  • SFSP Job Aid 2-Application Packet
  • SFSP Job Aid 3-Claims
  • SFSP Job Aid 4-Other Forms
  • SFSP Job Aid 5-Returned Items
  • SFSP Job Aid 6-SFSP Budgets
  • SFSP Job Aid 7-Quarter-mile Site Reporting Requirements

New Sponsors

New Sponsor Questions and Answers

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?
What are some basic eligibility requirements for becoming an SFSP sponsor?
What are financial eligibility requirements for becoming an SFSP sponsor?
What are the essential administrative eligibility requirements to become an SFSP sponsor?
How can my organization become an SFSP sponsor?

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 External link opens in new window or tab. 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 reimbursements
  • 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
  • Fundraising
  • 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 7 CFR, Part 225, please visit the Cornell Law School 7 CFR Part 225 - SUMMER FOOD SERVICE PROGRAM External link opens in new window or tab. 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 email 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: As of October 1, 2019, the CDE requires that all new SFSP applicants and returning sponsors submit complete and correct SFSP application packets through the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) no later than 30 calendar days prior to the first SFSP meal service day, or May 15, whichever comes first.

Program Details

Sponsor Meal Site, Meal Preparation, Meal Service and Site Eligibility

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 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.

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 through the individual income eligibility of the children attending the site. Using area eligibility to qualify a closed enrolled site is no longer allowed.

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.

What are other specialized site types?

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..

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.

Vended Sponsor

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 vendor, 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 vendors 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 $250,000 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 so it is recommended you start early!

Meal Service

Information regarding types of meals, types of food, and meal service hours of operation.

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 External link opens in new window or tab..

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.

Site Eligibility

Information and procedures to determine if a meal service site is eligible under the SFSP requirements.

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. You can find census data mapping tools on the USDA SFSP Mapping Tools for Summer Meal Programs web page External link opens in new window or tab.. Please contact your assigned program specialist to learn more about these tools.

How is school data used?

Sponsors can use school data to establish area eligibility, excluding closed enrolled and camp sites. 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.

Sponsor Reimbursement

Information regarding how sponsors are reimbursed for the meals they serve in the SFSP.

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.


Below is information on the annual mandatory training and other training opportunities used for continuing education for summer meal program operators.

Annual Mandatory Training
Online Trainings
Additional Training Databases
In-person Workshops

Annual Mandatory Training

Policy Guidance

Title 7,Code of Federal Regulations(7CFR), sections 225.7(a) and 225.15(d)(1), requires all participating SFSP sponsors to annually attend state agency training and to train all administrative staff and site staff before their SFSP operations begin.

2024 Annual Mandatory Training

All new and returning SFSP sponsors are required to complete the CDE’s Annual Mandatory Training. The 2024 Annual Mandatory Training will be offered through a live Zoom webinar series. All SFSP sponsors must attend one of the scheduled sessions:

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024, from 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, April 9, 2024, from 10 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

Training Announcement

Information on how to register for the SFSP Mandatory Training will be posted on the CDE Nutrition What’s New web page and shared by Listserv announcement.


All sponsors are required to designate a supervisory personnel staff member or authorized representative responsible for food service to attend the mandatory training. Additional staff who will be administering the SFSP are encouraged to attend the mandatory training as well.

The training covers SFSP regulations, how to run a successful summer program, and best practices for operating meal sites. In addition to the training courses, sponsors are required to review and follow all program regulations and policies pertaining to their program operations, which are located on the following web pages:

Online Trainings

The following training(s) are for continuing education for summer meal program operators.

Course Number Course Name Training Topic Target Audience
USDA External Interim Final Rule for Non-Congregate Summer Meal Service Webinar External link opens in new window or tab. Non-Congregate Summer Meal Service Summer Meal Program Sponsors and Program Operators
CDE Course Catalog – Course Number 755 USDA Foods for the Summer Food Service Program Purpose and benefits of participating in the Food Distribution Program (FDP) and how to enroll in the FDP Summer Food Service Program Sponsors
USDA External Safe Meals, Healthy Kids: Food Safety Tips for Summer Meals Webinar External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 1:09:14) Food Safety in Summer Meal Programs Summer Meal Program Operators

Additional Online Training Databases

In-Person Workshops

When announcements for conferences, in-person, and other training opportunities are offered for summer meal program operators, they are announced on the CDE Nutrition What’s New web page under theTraining Tab.


Effective November 17, 2021, the USDA issued a new Procurement Threshold Policy (SFSP 01-2022) External link opens in new window or tab..

SFSP Procurement Standards

All new and returning sponsors must fully adhere to the USDA regulations regarding procurement of food, supplies, goods, and other services.

Federal and State Procurement Regulations

Chapter 6, page 83, of the 2016 USDA SFSP Administrative Guidance For Sponsors External link opens in new window or tab. 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 sections 200.318-326.

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 External link opens in new window or tab..

All new and returning sponsors must fully adhere to the USDA regulations regarding procurement of food, supplies, goods, and other services.


SFSP Outreach Resources

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.

Summer Food, Summer Moves Resource Kit External link opens in new window or tab.
This fun, hands-on resource kit is designed to get kids and families excited about healthy eating and physical activity during the summer months.

Summer Meal Coalition Web Page External link opens in new window or tab.
California Summer Meal Coalition Partnership Information.

SFSP Mailing List

Summer Food Service Program Information by Email
Sign up for our email list to receive regular announcements.

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 email at


SFSP Resources for Participants

Find Summer Meal Sites with Your Phone
The CA Meals for Kids mobile application helps you find nearby California Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs Sites through your iOS, Android, or Microsoft devices.

Summer Meal Service Sites
California state map with county by county listings of sponsors and meal service sites.

Summer Meals Flyer (PDF)
The Summer Meals flyer provides resources to locate Summer Meals sites and local food resources near you.

SFSP Resources for Operators

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 Commodity Food Donations Flyer (DOCX; 17-May-2018)
Did you know that all Summer Food Service Program sponsors can receive a minimum of $1,000 in USDA Foods? For more details view the above SFSP USDA Foods flyer.

Administrative Manuals External link opens in new window or tab.
USDA program guides for SFSP sponsors.

USDA Policy Memos External link opens in new window or tab.
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.

SFSP Meal Pattern Guidance and Sample Menus
Guidance and sample menus for Child Nutrition Program (CNP) Operators.

USDA SFSP Mapping Tools for Summer Meal Programs External link opens in new window or tab.
Census data mapping tools to determine area eligibility for meal sites.

USDA Food Buying Guide External link opens in new window or tab.
Essential food procurement and meal pattern details.

Food Buying Guide Calculator
Provides the steps for using the USDA Food Buying Guide Calculator to determine required quantities of foods to purchase to meet the meal pattern requirements.

USDA Food Buying Guide Mobile Application External link opens in new window or tab.
CNPs, food manufacturers, and other stakeholders can now access the USDA Food Buying Guide on their mobile communication devices. Whether it's for procurement of foods, ensuring meal pattern compliance, or just getting nutrition information for foods, this is a must have application for those involved with CNPs who are always 'on the go'.

USDA Summer Meal Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab.
FNS resources to help promote and operate the SFSP.

Questions:   Summer Food Service Program |
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, March 26, 2024
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