Finding Your Meal Sponsor

In many communities, school districts are the primary summer meal sponsors. In other communities, there may be several meal sponsors. Other sponsors often include park and recreation departments, county offices of education, churches and faith-based organizations, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, or city, county, tribal government agencies or nonprofit agencies. The California Summer Meal Coalition and California Library Association can help you locate a sponsor in your area. Other ways to find a sponsor:

  • Contact your school district’s child nutrition director. School districts can be ideal sponsors because of their operational capacity and familiarity with USDA child nutrition programs.
  • Check the California Department of Education website for a list of sponsors from the previous year. This list can provide a starting point to find a sponsor. CDE staff may be able to provide assistance as well.
  • Contact your local food bank. Food banks are often sponsors or have relationships with other local agencies that are operate a summer meal program. The Feeding America website can help you find your local food bank.

Working with Your Meal Sponsor

Introductory meeting

Sponsors are required to provide training for summer meal site staff. Prior to this training, an introductory meeting with your sponsor provides a vital opportunity to get acquainted, discuss general procedures and expectations, and set the tone for a strong partnership. It is important to have key staff at this meeting, including those who will oversee the program, and those who will implement the meal service. It is also helpful to have present facilities managers, and staff involved with the recruitment and training of volunteers. It may be helpful to have a representative from your Friends of the Library present as well as there may be a role to engage them in outreach or as volunteers. The mandatory site training will provide greater detail about procedures and policies.

It is important to know that each meal sponsor, whether they are a school district, food bank, YMCA, or other organization, are different and your relationship with your meal sponsor will likely be different to the relationship a colleague at a neighboring library might have with their meal sponsor. Your sponsor is your partner and the program is most likely to succeed if you work together to create the program that works best for you.

What to cover (in general terms) at the introductory meeting

  • What kinds of meals does the sponsor provide (e.g., (hot, cold, served in sealed containers) ?
  • Estimated number of kids  (or a typical summer day at the library)
  • General procedures (what does the day-to-day operations look like)
  • Important dates (site training, when will the lunch service start and how many weeks will it last)
  • Site staffing and who should attend site training
  • Handling leftovers and trash
  • Will the library need a refrigerator in the lunch room
  • Will the sponsor or library provide cleaning supplies
  • Outreach
  • Site walk-through
  • Working together to promote the program
  • Reporting data to the meal sponsor and other paperwork.

What to expect from summer meal site training

The mandatory site training is an opportunity to dig deeper into the details of summer meal program operations. Some sponsors require that all site staff who will be participating in the program to attend site training while others utilize a “Train the Trainer” method. Your sponsor will provide a detailed outline of procedures including:

  • Meal ordering and delivery
  • Food safety and handling
  • Paperwork management
  • Meal service (time, meal counting, types of meals)
  • Leftovers and trash
  • If the provider allows sites to have a “share table
  • Non-discrimination policy compliance
  • Following local health and safety regulations
  • Site monitoring policy
  • Communication procedures

USDA’s Site Supervisor Guide (available in English and Spanish) is always good to have on hand. Don’t be shy about contacting your sponsor as questions or issues arise. Maintaining the integrity of the program is critical for sponsors, and to achieve that means helping summer meal site staff feel confident and be successful in managing the site operations. Open communication is key to a successful program.