In August 2020, the Food Research & Action Center released two reports looking at participation in Summer Nutrition Programs for the 2019 summer. Explore below to see our key findings and suggested adjustments for COVID-19.

Summer Nutrition Programs: Lunch


There are two federal Summer Nutrition Programs — the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) Seamless Summer Option and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). At sites that qualify for these programs, all of the children that come to the site can eat for free

Key Findings

    • During July 2019, the programs served 2.8 million children across the country.
    • Only one in seven children who ate a free or reduced-price school lunch during the 2018-2019 school year were reached by the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2019.
    • Participation in summer lunch decreased by 77,000 participants in July 2019 compared to the previous summer.
      • This was the fourth year in a row that participation declined.
    • The Summer Nutrition Programs that were implemented as schools closed due to COVID-19 can help shine a spotlight on the inherent challenges that the Summer Nutrition Programs face each year.

See how your state ranks! Click for Summer Lunch and Summer Breakfast tables.

Additional Notes

  • Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer
    The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program gives families additional resources to purchase food during the summer months and is a complement to the Summer Nutrition Programs. The program is currently available in Michigan, Wisconsin, the Chickasaw Nation, and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona.

    During COVID-19, Congress acted to create the Pandemic EBT program. Similar to Summer EBT, it provides an important resource for struggling families who rely on free or reduced-price meals when schools are open.

  • ``Summer Slide``
    Children who face a nutrition gap when the school year ends are often also affected disproportionately by the “summer slide,” or the loss of knowledge and skills gained during the school year. In normal times, summer nutrition and summer learning are interconnected. Summer enrichment programs provide the foundation for summer meals, helping to draw children to sites. At the same time, eligible summer programs rely on the federal funding available through the Summer Nutrition Programs to provide meals, allowing them to stretch already tight budgets.

Summer Meals Program: Breakfast

SNP Breakfast

This report analyzes participation in the summer breakfast portion of the Summer Nutrition Programs in July 2019, compared to participation in summer lunch during the same time.

Key Finding

    • In July 2019, summer breakfast reached 1.5 million of those children who participated in summer lunch.

Four Groups to Measure Summer Breakfast Participation

  • Group 1: Strong Participation in Both Summer Breakfast and Lunch
    For these top performers, at least one child received summer lunch for every five low-income children who participated in school lunch during the regular school year. This group of states also served more than half as many children summer breakfast as those who received summer lunch.

    State Ratio of Summer Lunch to School Year Lunch Ratio of Summer Breakfast to Summer Lunch
    District of Columbia 37.7 73.7
    Vermont 33.5 62.2
    New Mexico 27.7 54.2
    New York 27.5 71.5
    Maine 26.5 54.3
    Maryland 23.1 69.0
    New Jersey 22.4 75.2

  • Group 2: Strong Participation in Summer Breakfast But Weak Participation in Summer Lunch
    Twenty-four states succeeded in providing summer breakfast to at least 50 percent of those who received summer lunch.

    State Ratio of Summer Lunch to School Year Lunch Ratio of Summer Breakfast to Summer Lunch
    Hawaii 8.7 83.5
    New Hampshire 15.2 78.1
    Connecticut 19.0 71.1
    Virginia 14.3 68.6
    Louisiana 5.1 64.4
    Minnesota 18.4 64.0
    Massachusetts 16.5 63.5
    Mississippi 7.3 63.1
    West Virginia 6.6 62.9
    Texas 7.3 61.9
    Delaware 17.6 61.6
    Nevada 8.0 60.2
    Missouri 9.0 58.8
    South Carolina 15.9 58.8
    Georgia 13.6 57.2
    Wisconsin 15.5 56.7
    Arkansas 11.1 56.0
    North Carolina 13.9 55.8
    Pennsylvania 13.1 53.1
    Michigan 11.1 52.1
    Arizona 15.7 51.5
    Illinois 11.7 51.3
    Alabama 10.1 51.2
    Florida 13.8 50.8

  • Group 3: Weak Participation in Summer Breakfast Relative to Strong Participation in Summer Lunch
    One state lagged in serving breakfast, even while it achieved relatively strong summer lunch participation ratios: Montana.

    State Ratio of Summer Lunch to School Year Lunch Ratio of Summer Breakfast to Summer Lunch
    Montana 19.9 39.5

  • Group 4: Weak Participation in Both Summer Breakfast and Summer Lunch
    The last 19 states, fell short of even a modest standard of serving summer lunch to at least one child for every five children who received a free or reduced-price lunch during the regular school year. With low participation in both summer breakfast and lunch, these states leave much room for improvement.

    State Ratio of Summer Lunch to School Year Lunch Ratio of Summer Breakfast to Summer Lunch
    Rhode Island 16.7 47.9
    Tennessee 12.2 47.5
    Ohio 10.4 47.4
    Nebraska 7.3 41.8
    California 16.5 41.5
    Indiana 15.1 41.3
    Washington 10.9 39.2
    Colorado 9.5 38.5
    Iowa 10.4 38.4
    Kentucky 10.3 37.5
    Oregon 16.0 36.4
    Kansas 9.5 35.3
    North Dakota 10.1 35.1
    Oklahoma 4.9 34.8
    Alaska 11.2 34.4
    Wyoming 18.7 27.7
    Idaho 18.9 22.4
    South Dakota 15.8 21.7
    Utah 18.2 14.5

As communities continue to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 on food security, education, and the economy, the need to fully maximize the reach of the Summer Nutrition Programs is more important than ever.