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Summer Food Service Program

Hunger Doesn't take a Vacation Video

This short video will show you the Summer Food Service Program in action in Pennsylvania.

Click here to find a location closest to you!
Yearly Application Deadlines

March 15
PEARS is available for sponsors to apply for the upcoming summer - Now in .NET Platform please read Important Information about your password.

April 15
Deadline for sponsors to apply if they are requesting an advance

April 30
Deadline for all returning sponsors to apply

May 30
Deadline for new sponsor applications

Everyone Wins with the SFSP!!

  • Children in low-income areas have free nutritious meals.
  • The parents of the children stretch food dollars when children receive meals in the summer.
  • Your organization receives federal money for providing meals.
  • Children return to school in the fall ready to learn after eating nutritious meals during summer vacation.

Research had determined that federally funded meals are an effective tool for reducing obesity among lower income children. All of the meals and snacks served through the Summer Nutrition Programs must meet federal nutrition standards. The meals served through the SFSP require servings of grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables, and milk.

Established since 1975, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) provides free meals to children from low income families so they may receive the same high quality nutrition during school vacations that they get in school cafeterias during the school year. Continued nutrition helps children return to school after summer ready to learn.

What is Summer Food Service Program?

The SFSP is a federally funded program operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Non-profit organizations may sponsor the program and receive reimbursement for qualifying meals served to eligible children.

There is a great need for the SFSP, particularly in those areas of the Commonwealth where many children are eligible for free or reduced price school meals.

The following publications contain additional helpful information to learn more about SFSP:

Onsite Resources for SFSP include the following:

How to Get Involved

  • Become a Sponsor
  • Operate a Summer Food Site
  • Be a Meal Vendor
  • Volunteer to Help a Sponsor or Site
Information for Potential Sponsors

Sponsors receive payments from USDA, through the PA Department of Education, based on the number of meals they serve. All meals are served free to eligible children. Sponsors are organizations that manage SFSP feeding sites. Sponsors must:

  • Attend a state training or complete E-learning online
  • Locate and recruit eligible site(s)
  • Hire, train and supervise staff and volunteers
  • Arrange for meals to be prepared or delivered
  • Monitor their site(s)
  • Prepare claims for reimbursement
  • Ensure that their SFSP is sustainable through community partnerships, fundraising and volunteer recruitment.

The following types of organizations may be sponsors:

  • Public or private nonprofit schools
  • Units of local, municipal, county, tribal or State government
  • Private nonprofit organizations
  • Public or private nonprofit camps
  • Public or nonprofit universities or colleges
Application Process

To become a sponsor, complete the preliminary paperwork, complete an application online in PEARS (Pennsylvania Electronic Application and Reimbursement System), and attend training with the Department of Education.

The preliminary paperwork is located online at www.pears.ed.state.pa.us. When you enter into this website you will see four bulleted items. Choose "New Sponsors Application Package", then "Summer Food Service Program". Go to the "New Sponsors Application Information SFSP" and print all the forms in that section.

First, obtain a Vendor Number. The instructions for obtaining the Vendor Number is the first item in the list of forms to be printed. Once you have obtained the Vendor Number, complete the remaining forms. Enter your Vendor Number on the Policy Statement.

You will not have an agreement number yet, so leave that blank.

A copy of you 501(c)(3) Tax Exemption Letter from the Federal IRS is required. All forms are to be completed, dated and signed then sent to the Department of Education, 333 Market Street, 4th Floor, Harrisburg, PA 17126-0333.

After the forms have been reviewed and processed, you will receive an email with your password and login for access into PEARS. This will enable you to enter the Application for Participation, Site Information for each site and Budget. Once these are completed, you will be scheduled for training in the operation of the program.

If you currently participate in another child nutrition program, or are a school food authority, you only need to complete the Agreement, Policy Statement and CN PEARS Authorization Form. After the forms have been processed you will receive an email stating that you will be able to access PEARS with the current password and login that you use to access the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

For all new sponsors, training is done in your region. Subsequent annual training is completed online through E-learning for sponsors in good standing. More training may be required for established sponsors with a significant number of violations. If there are major changes in regulations to the program or PEARS, you will be notified of training that will be scheduled in multiple areas throughout Pennsylvania that you will be required to attend.

The SFSP toolkit will help sponsors and sites create outreach materials such as letters to parents and press releases. The link to the outreach toolkit is http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Summer/library/toolkit.pdf. This toolkit will help you develop outreach methods to suit your specific needs.

Information for Potential Sites

A site is the physical location that serves SFSP meals during a supervised time period.

Some organizations do not have the financial or administrative ability to operate the program, but they can supervise a food service for children, along with recreational or enrichment activities at a site.

You can look for an established sponsor in your area from the sponsor list. Please contact them if you would like to offer your location as a feeding site, or you may contact the Department of Education.

Site Eligibility

Site eligibility is determined by the location of your site and the needs of the area. There are several formulas for determining this, including census data and school building data. Contact the Department of Education (800.331.0129), to determine the eligibility of your site location by school building data.

To determine eligibility through census data, visit:
Click the Find box. Enter your site address. If your site will qualify as open, it will appear as green on the map.

Site Supervisor

If you supervise a site you will:

  • Attend your sponsor's training
  • Supervise activities and meal service at your site
  • Distribute meals by following SFSP guidelines
  • Keep daily records of meals served
  • Store food appropriately
  • Keep the site clean and sanitary
  • Help sponsors promote the program to the community

Meal Patterns

A sponsor may prepare its own meals, purchase meals through an agreement with an area school, or contract for meals with a food service management company (vendor).

Meal patterns can be followed by completing the following menu guidelines. Reimbursements are based on serving nutritious meals to children that follow the set meal pattern.

Information for Becoming a Vendor

Organizations with kitchens and food service staff, including schools, commercial companies, public or non-profit institutions, can participate in the SFSP as vendors. Instead of administering or supervising a meal service site, a vendor sells prepared meals under an agreement or a contract with an approved SFSP sponsor. As a vendor, you will:

  • Meet appropriate health and sanitation standards
  • Prepare meals meeting Federal nutritional guidelines
  • Deliver meals on schedule
  • Keep delivery records
  • Fulfill the terms of the agreement or contract

List of Current Vendors (Excel)

Information for Volunteers

If your organization cannot take on the responsibilities of a sponsor or a site, you can partner with a sponsor to provide activities that make summer fun, such as:

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Mentoring
  • Dramatics
  • Computers
  • Tutoring
  • Kite Flying
  • Athletics
  • Games
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Coaching
  • Life Skills
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Swimming
  • Entertainment
Just to name a few!

    The Summer Food Service Program operates under the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 225.

    The U.S Department of Agriculture prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department.  (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.)

    If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at program.intake@usda.gov.

    Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).  

    USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

    Contact Information

    For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, becoming a sponsor, food sites, volunteers or vendors contact:

    Mary Ringenberg l Education Administration Specialist
    Pennsylvania Department of Education l Bureau of Budget and Fiscal Management
    333 Market Street l Harrisburg PA 17126
    Phone: 717.783.6501 l 800.331.0129 ext. 125 l Fax: 717.783.6566
    Email: mringenber@pa.gov