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Summer Reading at New York Libraries

Connecting Kids and Teens with Summer Nutrition

Hunger Solutions, New York logo that states Uniting Policies and Programs to End Hunger

View the Summer Meals at NYS Libraries webinar!

More than 1.5 million low-income New York State students rely on school lunches to fuel their learning; however, 1.1 million New York children lose access to lunch during the summer months, and therefore miss out on the academic and nutritional support they need to thrive. According to the Food Research and Action Center’s 2023 Summer Nutrition Status Report, only 1 in 4 low-income children who rely on free or reduced-price school lunches accessed a summer lunch in New York in 2022. This nutritional gap contributes to summer learning loss, which may disproportionately affect children from low-income households, exacerbating socioeconomic disparities in literacy and math.

The good news is that an increasing number of partners, including libraries, are working together to ensure kids have access to healthy food year-round. As trusted and valued community centers, many libraries find that offering meals and snacks to youth makes good sense for their summer programming, brings in new patrons, and aligns with their mission.

In 2023, 60 libraries were approved to serve summer meals or snacks through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federally funded program that enables qualified organizations – including libraries – to serve free meals to kids and teens in low-income areas. Before the pandemic, library participation was even higher, with 133 libraries approved to serve summer meals in 2019. Many more libraries help promote summer meals through outreach to their patrons and broader community.

The SFSP is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture and the New York State Education Department. Typically, libraries partner with an existing summer meal “sponsor” - often a school - who provides the meals and handles the administrative and fiscal requirements of the program. Libraries typically serve as summer meal “sites” – or in other words, the location where kids and teens eat summer meals.

There are a variety of meaningful ways your library can be part of this essential and underused child nutrition program, including:

  • Providing information to help families learn about summer meal sites near them.
  • Serving snacks or meals right at the library to enhance your programming.
  • Providing summer reading activities at local sites.
  • Encouraging more partners in your community to get involved.

Summer EBT

Summer EBT is a new federal nutrition program that provides food benefits for eligible children during the summer break from school. Beginning in Summer 2024, families will receive $40 per month per eligible child – a total of $120 for the summer – on an EBT food benefit card. These benefits are intended to work in conjunction with summer meals to help ensure children’s access to healthy food while school is out. For more information, please visit the NYS OTDA Summer EBT webpage.

Tips to Get Started

Get Started Today!

  1. Determine your community’s need and if your library is in an eligible area. Use census data via the USDA’s Capacity Builder Mapper embedded on our Summer Food Service Program webpage. School data is another pathway for determining eligibility - more information for utilizing this option is also available on the webpage.
  2. Partner with local organizations that are already involved. Schools, food banks, and other community groups may be serving summer meals to kids in your community. Use the Summer Meals Sponsor Directory to find sponsors near you.
  3. Access Hunger Solutions New York’s free outreach resources, including flyers in English and Spanish that can be ordered in bulk from the NYS Education Department.
  4. Connect with other programs that help alleviate hunger in your community:
    • WIC provides pregnant women, new moms, infants and children under age 5 with healthy food, help with breastfeeding, nutrition advice, and referrals to other services. For help with WIC, visit WICHelpNY.org.
    • Partner with your local Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Coordinator to connect eligible library participants of all ages with monthly SNAP benefits.
    • Share information with families about school meals.
    • If your library offers structured afterschool enrichment programming, consider offering free, healthy afterschool snacks or meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.

For more information about summer meals and other nutrition programs that can benefit your patrons, contact Cody Bloomfield, Afterschool and Summer Meals Specialist, at (518) 915-6647 or Cody.Bloomfield@HungerSolutionsNY.org

Kids and Teens Eat Free at Fun Spots Nearby! Find Summer Meals Near You: Text "food" to 304-304, Call 211 or 311 in NYC, visit SummerMealsNY.org