Does your library serve summer meals/snacks, or are you interested in being a meal site or supporting other meal sites in your area?
Many public libraries in Kentucky and around the United States participate in the
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a USDA-funded program that provides free meals and snacks to children ages 0-18 in communities with high levels of need. The need for this program remains great. The pandemic has driven significant increases in
economic instability and food insecurity.
Public libraries and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) are a great fit!
The public library is a known, trusted, accessible community center which is known for giving stuff out for free and has no stigma of handout attached to it. Public libraries are also justly famous for drop-in enrichment programming, which increases the attractiveness and use of SFSP sites.
SFSP is good for the public library too. Besides the obvious benefits of addressing hunger and supporting vulnerable youth, participation benefits public libraries through:
- Access to new user groups, especially underserved and marginalized populations
- Increased visibility of the public library as a community asset
- Opportunities for new partnerships
- Positioning of the public library as an important stakeholder in community well-being and positive child outcomes
- Support for summer public library programming through increased attendance
- If you are already an SFSP site (or have been a site in the past), work with your regular sponsor.
- If you want to become an SFSP site*, first find out if you are in an eligible area. Eligibility is based on the economic conditions of a geographic area, measured by school data or census data. Use the USDA's
Capacity Builder Map to see if you are in an eligible area. When the map loads, scroll down and select “the appropriate fiscal year SFSP CACFP Eligibility.”
- If you are not in an eligible area, see the Libraries and Summer Food guide for alternatives to SFSP and other ways to help.
- If you are in an eligible area, identify and contact a local SFSP sponsor* about becoming a site. The USDA Capacity Builder map can show you existing sites and their sponsors. You can also contact KDLA’s Youth Services Consultant for assistance.
- If there is no sponsor in your area to ask, you might try contacting your school district administrative offices, to discuss the possibility of their becoming an
SFSP sponsor and using your public library as a site.
- A note about SFSP sites and sponsors:
- Sites are the locations where meals/snacks are served. Nearly all participating public libraries are sites (not sponsors), or partner to bring enrichment activities to an existing site.
- Sponsors handle the financial, administrative and food service responsibilities for SFSP in an area. Sponsors may contract with food service providers and do not have to prepare the food themselves. Sponsors are reimbursed for all expenses by the USDA. A few public libraries are sponsors as well as sites.
outreach materials from Share Our Strength - many can be customized.
Additional Resources for Food in Kentucky
Collaborative Summer Library Program offers a thorough, clear how-to guide for public libraries. This guide,
Libraries and Summer Food, provides a step-by-step for public libraries interested in becoming SFSP sites, or otherwise getting involved in addressing child food insecurity during the summer.
No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices – Nutrition Program Resources for Public libraries
No Kid Hungry’s Center for Best Practices has created a space just for public libraries! This webpage houses information for public libraries on both the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP or Summer Meals) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program At-Risk Afterschool Meal Program (CACFP At-Risk or Afterschool Meals). Learn more about each program and how public libraries can share their strengths to increase access to healthy food in their communities. Planning and implementation resources are available along with additional training opportunities.
Strategies for Action
Public libraries offer a unique benefit to the community and to the SFSP/CACFP programs. Strategies can be taken to leverage these strengths to increase access to meals for kids and teens in the community.
- Create a team or task force to strategize and plan for summer food access in your community.
- Seek expertise from local schools, elected officials, and other youth-serving organizations.
- Contact your local schools to see how you might collaborate.
- Some communities and schools have full or part-time social workers that could be a great resource.
- Work with your local youth-serving organizations to coordinate efforts.
- The congregate feeding requirement means that many families may struggle with transportation to meal sites. Consider partnering with local transportation agencies (if available) to provide free bus passes to students. No public transportation? Work with your local school or bus agency to see if they’d be willing to set up a summer bus route to the public library.
- Offer public library services on mobile meal routes offered by other summer food programs.
- Offering activities is a great way to draw and engage kids and teens at meal sites, and public libraries offer expertise and unique strengths in programming.
- Many sites this year will not be eligible to participate as an open summer meal site due to area eligibility.
See if your site qualifies.
- If you are not eligible for SFSP, public libraries can still offer meals and groceries to community members. Consider opening a
Little Free Pantry or partnering with a regional food bank. The dollar goes farther at a food bank than at a grocery store.
- There might be an open site close to your public library. Consider promoting the meal site to patrons visiting the public library.
Staffing and Funding Resources
- Consider volunteers or
AmeriCorps VISTA members for future years.
- Work with the faith-based community. If your region has a pastoral association and/or churches active in your community, they may be willing to help fund programs and to provide volunteers.
- Seek out grant opportunities, local funding, and partnerships.
- Consider whether you can fund meals/snacks yourself through public library budget and donations (example from Kansas).