The Summer Food Service Program mandates that (with a very few exceptions) only children and teens ages 18 and below are eligible to receive its free meals. Parents and caregivers are not allowed to eat the meals that are provided to youth. Although adults generally recognize that this is a regulation that cannot be sidestepped, the library’s inability to provide food to adults can be challenging and awkward for staff, volunteers and families.

In addition to posting the required site rules prominently in all languages spoken by participating families, it can be helpful to make a general announcement that, in addition to other information, includes a reminder to parents/caregivers that only children may consume the meals. A general announcement avoids targeting individuals and weekly announcements can help reinforce the rule. Some ways to support the understanding around this delicate issue include:

  • Building messaging in outreach materials that invites parents to bring their own lunch but kids eat for free.
  • Working with sponsor to find a local business to underwrite the cost of adult meals (adults will be given a ticket and those meals will be recorded separately).
  • Finding a partner such as a food bank or other community agency that can provide meals for adults.
  • Working with sponsor to provide a list of local food pantries or other resources.
  • Securing produce donations from the local grocery store, food bank or other organization for adults to bring home.
  • Giving out cards or flyers, to everyone, that list sources of food for those over 18.