Funded on September 1, 2022

Most school-aged children are eligible to receive free or reduced-price (FRP) school meals. When school is not in session for most students during the summer, these students often lose access to a daily source of meals. To address this nutrition gap, the federal government has instituted two programs, the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option. These programs provide up to two free meals a day to children in high-poverty areas or to students who qualify for FRP meals during the school year. In 2019, these programs served about 2.7 million children a day at more than 47,500 sites nationwide, but this is only 10 percent of the number served through the school lunch program.

Previous work shows that free meals during the school year increase food consumption and nutritional intake and that food insecurity among families with children is higher in summer. The existing work on the summer free meals programs finds that proximity to a summer program site is associated with lower rates of very low food security among children, but less is known about the summer component’s effects on health, and much less by race. This project evaluates whether summer feeding programs buffer against adverse medical outcomes with a focus on racial inequities.