Optimal Awarded Evaluation of the Summer Food Service Program Participant Characteristics

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in their efforts to reach out to small businesses, awarded Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal) a contract to study and prepare a report which documents the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) providers and participant characteristics. The SFSP was designed to ensure that children who benefit from the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) do not experience a nutrition gap during the summer months when schools are not in session.

The project is composed of several major tasks:

    • Conduct a census of State Agencies from the 50 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and collect data from nationally representative samples of sponsors and sites.
    • Administer a sub-study of state and local SFSP staff from high and low-participation states to examine the differences in participation in SFSP and factors that affect participation by sponsors and children.
    • Conduct interviews with parents/caregivers of participants to augment the census and sub-study data, to gather descriptive information on the reasons their children participate in SFSP programs, how often the children attend SFSP sites, what could improve levels of attendance, and how the parents/caregivers of participants heard about the program.

The last major evaluation of the characteristics and impact of SFSP was released in 2003. There have been some significant policy changes to SFSP since 2003 that could impact participation in the program by children, sponsors, and sites. The research team will collect and analyze data to examine issues that pertain to how the SFSP operates on the State, sponsor, site and participant levels. As health and budget concerns increase, it is especially important that food programs directed toward children are structured as efficiently as possible to achieve the intended effects.