To Be Well Read ... You Must Be Well Fed
Public Libraries and the USDA Summer Food Service Program
Summer is the hungriest time of the year. During the school year, 2.8 million Texas students receive free or reduced-priced meals, yet only a fraction of these children receive free meals during the summer. Without consistent and quality nutrition, they are more likely to become sick, have less energy, and have difficulty focusing on reading and learning. These children may fall further behind in reading and experience more summer learning loss. The good news is that free and healthy meals are available to children and teens through age 18 at Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites throughout Texas and the U.S.
The SFSP is a federally funded program that enables libraries, school districts, churches, WIC clinics, and other eligible organizations to serve free, healthy meals to low-income children and teens through age 18 during the summer months. The program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Texas Department of Agriculture and is available in areas where at least 50% of children are eligible for free and reduced price lunch.
One in four Texas children do not know if there will be food for their next meal. This is the second highest rate of food insecurity among children in the nation. As trusted public spaces and community centers, libraries are at the heart of their communities and they welcome children during summer vacations. Many libraries help alleviate food insecurity by participating in the SFSP and serving meals and snacks to hungry children in conjunction with their summer programs. Participation in summer programs increases and new families visit libraries and discover valuable resources and services. Many other libraries bring resources and art, literacy, and STEM programs to SFSP sites at schools and other organizations in their communities. Through this essential and underutilized program, libraries nourish children's bodies, educate their minds, enrich their lives, and support success in school and beyond.
Commissioner Sid Miller of the Texas Department of Agriculture extends an Invitation to Texas Public Libraries to participate in the USDA Summer Food Service Program.
- Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) - Summer Feeding Programs
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Summer Meals ToolKit
- Lunch at the Library - California Library Association and the California Summer Meal Coalition
- Feeding Texas
- Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry Campaign
- Texas Hunger Initiative Summer Meals Expansion, Baylor University
- No Kid Hungry Campaign: Free Downloadable Graphics, Videos, Stock Photos and More
- Sodexco Foundation Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit: Posters, Banners, and Outreach Materials Templates and more
- TDA Downloadable Outreach Materials (Downloadable Bookmarks, Door Hangers, Parent Information Card, Posters, Web Banner, Yard Signs in Spanish and English)
- USDA Summer Food, Summer Moves (Downloadable Activity Guides, Posters, Flyers, Placemat, Recipes and more in Spanish and English)
Locating Meal Sites
Locate the nearest summer food site or help families find sites with these resources.
- Visit http://squaremeals.org/Programs/SummerFeedingPrograms/SummerFeedingInteractiveMap.aspx, and click on Eat Right, Find a Site!
- Texans may call 211 or text FoodTx to 877-877 to find meal sites nearby
- USDA: Find Summer Meals Sites (Information about sites for summer 2016 will be added as sites register)
- The Range App links to the nearest free meal site
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Teaming Up with Libraries
- Libraries Create Community Connections by Serving Summer Meals. (Patrice Chamberlain, Cities Speak: The Official Blog of the National League of Cities, May 29, 2015.)
- ABC30 Donates 5,000 Books to Fresno County Library Program. (ABC30 Action News, May 8, 2015.)
- Map of Participating U.S. Libraries - Enlarge the Map of Texas for Detail (California Library Association and the California Summer Meal Coalition)
- Summer Feeding: Local Libraries Are Valuable Tools in Addressing Issues of Food Access. (Amber Stott, Comstock’s, April 22, 2015.)
- Summer Meal Programming at the Library. (Patrice Chamberlain and Natalie Cole, Public Libraries Online, March 17, 2015.)
- Texas Libraries - Success Stories. (Texas Department of Agriculture, April 4, 2014)
- To Be Well Read, You Must Be Well-Fed (Hunger Solutions, New York)
In the summer of 2016, 113 Texas public libraries participated as feeding sites. This is a 100% increase from the summer of 2015 when 56 libraries participated.
Staff or volunteers at participating libraries set up and distribute meals, clean up, and complete daily and weekly forms for the program. They must have space for children to sit and eat, refrigerator space to store food and a thermometer to ensure that food is kept at proper temperatures, a large garbage can, and cleaning supplies. Libraries without these may partner with nearby sites and bring programs and activities to the children.
Sites are inspected throughout the summer by sponsor, city, state, and federal inspectors to ensure that federal standards are met.
Many school districts, cities, counties, and food banks are Sponsors that provide meals and snacks served at libraries. These are some of the organizations that are Sponsors for Texas public libraries.
- Capital Area Food Bank
- Equal Heart
- East Texas Food Bank
- FJV Foundation
- Focus on Hope Outreach Services
- High Plains Food Bank
- Houston Food Bank
- North Texas Food Bank - Kids Cafe
- San Antonio Food Bank
- Tarrant Area Food Bank
- West Texas Food Bank
- Wichta Falls Area Food Bank
- Feeding Texas - Map of Counties Served by Member Food Banks (formerly known as the Texas Food Bank Network)
- Feeding Your Community: Summer Meals at Libraries (USDA/CSLP Webinar)
- Family Literacy at a Food Pantry (WebJunction Webinar)
- How Libraries Can Get Involved in Summer Meals (Slides from IMLS webinar)
- Lunch at the Library: Feeding Young Minds and Bodies During the Summer (Hosted by the USDA. Presenters are from the California Summer Meal Coalition, California Summer Library Association, Share Our Strength, and additional organizations.)
- Summer Meals at Libraries (Food Research and Action Center Conference Call)
- USDA Summer Food Service Program Webinars on Many Topics
- Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
- Every Child Ready to Read
- Little Free Library
- Too Small to Fail
- WebJunction Community Partnership and Collaboration Guide
The Texas Department of Agriculture information line at (877) TEX-MEAL or 877-839-6325 will direct you to the appropriate Child Nutrition Staff in your area for assistance.
Manager, Continuing Education and Consulting