For many families, the stability, nutrition, and education provided during the school year ends when school lets out for summer. During the summer vacation, children and teens in low-income families often have reduced or limited access to healthy food, learning opportunities, and safe places to congregate, and struggle to have their basic needs met.


9 million children in the United States live in households where they are food insecure.  The USDA Summer Food Service Program helps to ensure that children and teens receive nutritious meals when school is not in session by enabling school districts and other community-based organizations to offer healthy meals to children and youth in low-income neighborhoods. However, only 1 in 7 children and teens who receive free or reduced-price meals at school also receive free meals during the summer.

To help ensure that all children are nourished and engaged during the summer months, there is a clear and urgent need to:

  • establish more summer meal sites;
  • increase learning and enrichment programming at summer meal sites; and
  • increase the number of summer meal sites that appeal to children, teens, and their caregivers.

Addressing the Need

As a community resource public libraries are able to support summer meal programs because:

  • Library staff are able to connect youth and families to resources that support learning.
  • As a part of a community ecosystem library staff are able to connect youth and families to nutrition resources and programs.
  • Through their local public library youth have opportunities to build skills that can help them succeed in later life.

Photo credits: San Mateo County Libraries, Tulare County Library & Pleasant View Elementary