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Letter on Supporting The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

Dear Colleague Letter

Published: May 16, 2014
Tribal TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Dear Colleague

Dear Colleague:

Each summer, millions of families struggle to provide their children with nutritious meals when schools close for the summer and no longer provide meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.  Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is intended to fill this gap, less than 10 percent of the more than 21.5 million children receiving a free or reduced price meal from the National School Lunch Program participate in the SFSP.

We want to remind you of an opportunity to leverage available federal funds to address childhood hunger and food insecurity by improving participation in the SFSP.  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds are flexible and can be used to meet any of the four purposes of TANF.  States and tribes can use TANF funds for a range of expenditures that support programs that feed children during summer months. 

A number of organizations, including schools, local governments (particularly Parks and Recreation Departments), community organizations, camps, and faith-based organizations, might choose to operate a summer food service program if additional resources beyond those currently funded by USDA’s SFSP program are made available.  TANF funds can be used for a set of expenditures to support their participation in the program, and to help meet a set of costs at existing sites.  For example, allowable TANF expenses could include:  short-term leased or rented equipment, transportation services to transport food and/or children to feeding sites, recreational activities to attract more youth to program locations, pay for staff support to provide supervision and programming at summer feeding sites, and meal preparation costs that are not otherwise reimbursed under the SFSP (including the cost of additional meals and meals provided to parents of SFSP-eligible children).

We hope that you give serious consideration to using some of your TANF resources to help struggling families and children this summer.

Additional information and guidance on TANF use for SFSP can be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/resource/summer-food-service-program, and information about the SFSP can be found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website at http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer/ or http://www.fns.usda.gov/food-thats-when-school-out-webinar-march-19.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact the relevant state TANF Directors or to be in touch with the SFSP Directors in each state: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Contacts/StateDirectory.htm .

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to those in need.




Earl S. Johnson
Office of Family Assistance