17% of eligible children participate in Summer Food Service Program


Just as learning does not end when school lets out, neither does a child's need for good nutrition.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free, nutritious meals and snacks to help children get the nutrition they need to learn, play, and grow throughout the summer months when they are out of school. 

Second Harvest gathers and shares best practices for increasing participation in the Summer Food Service Program with local organizations, such as churches, school districts and charitable groups, and supports efforts to increase free meals to kids during the summer.

“Grant funds had an enormous impact on our program. I am not sure we could have offered (the program) without them.” - Portage Public Library

“Many children would not have eaten or would have eaten something unhealthy if we had not provided the lunches.” - Mauston School District

Want to know about summer hunger? Meet Sam...

Boy eating at a summer food service site


The first time we heard a 6-yr-old boy say “thank-you” for a hot meal on a Styrofoam tray was at a mobile home park a few miles outside of a small town in Grant County last summer.


The 6-yr-old boy was Sam. Sam lives in a mobile home with his mother and three siblings.

Since the community is too far away for Sam to walk to, he normally relies on a school bus for transportation. 

Last year, the community church began providing free lunch to kids in the summer, but Sam was unable to eat these meals because he couldn’t get there.  Buses don’t run in the summer. 


“If buses don’t run, how can WE get to SAM?” 

With a van. 

The church began taking a van filled with food to the kids at the mobile home park.  Over time, and with help from Second Harvest, this organization started serving cold milk, fresh fruit and vegetables, and hot entrees, just like at school.

Sam, along with his siblings and friends, began eating lunch every day.  Just like at school. 

Sam said “thank-you” every time he took a Styrofoam tray that summer.  He was grateful that someone cared enough to bring him the meals he took for granted during the school year. 

One day, when Sam came running up to the Summer Food van, we noticed he was barefoot.  We asked Sam, “Where are your shoes?”


“We can’t wear our shoes, they’re for school!”  He followed this matter-of-fact statement with “And when are you getting the food out? I haven’t eaten since you were here yesterday!” 

While saving shoes for school may be common, not having food in the summer shouldn’t be.