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Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs

122 C Street N.W., Suite 125
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-783-7507

Summer Food Service

More than 27 million children participated in the National School Lunch program last school year.  Among those children, over 15 million received their lunch at a reduced price or free due to their families’ financial status.  When school is not in session, these children lose access to regular daily school lunches and breakfasts.  This proves to be a problem for families across the nation as they seek to find ways to fill the nutritional needs no longer provided through school meals. 

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is able to fill that need during the summer months when school is not in session.  Nationally, only 21.1 out of every 100 children in free and reduced-price school-year school lunch were served in the summer.  Schools and non-profit centers, such as churches and community centers, serve as sites for children to eat healthy, nutritious meals and snacks.  Recently, USDA found that 95 percent of summer food sites provide activities as well as nutrition, helping families by providing supervised, positive activities that help children beyond the school year. 

Lutheran churches participate in the program across the country and serve as sites to provide a place for meals and a safe haven for many children in the community.  After interviewing 15 different churches about their experience with the Summer Food Service Program, here are the results:

Of the 15 churches interviewed, all but one served as a site, the other was a sponsor of the program for 20 sites.  The number of children served on a daily basis ranged from 10 to 120.  On average, each site was within 2 miles of the children’s homes.  Their main mode of transportation was on foot, but if the site was operating in conjunction with a summer camp, they often were dropped off by their parents.  Some churches began this program as a result of already operating a summer program that included serving a meal.  They began operating as a Summer Food Service Program site to incorporate the reimbursable meal into their summer program.  All of the sites served lunch, but a few were able to serve breakfast as well.


  • Kids get fed a healthy nutritious meal they otherwise would not get

  • Parents get relief, they know their children are getting a healthy meal

  • Sites provide a safe place to be in the community

  • Churches now have a positive public image

  • Communities see children off the street and participating in positive activities

  • Churches provided a service no other organizations in the community could do

  • A win-win for any organization


  • Paperwork, regulations are overwhelming for churches starting the program.  They want to serve food to people in need.

  • Some sites were unequipped with volunteers for doing paperwork

  • Supervisors lacked training to handle children at the program

  • Food was often repetitive, sandwiches were served too often


  • Streamline paperwork and regulations

  • Encourage more people to volunteer

  • Utilize new marketing ideas and advertising to get more children to participate

  • Increase funding to upgrade menus – higher quality proteins/meats, fresh fruits

  • Increase reimbursement to begin serving breakfast

For more information contact Kay Bengston, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, (202) 626-7942.  E-mail:


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