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Complete Eats: The USDA Summer Food Service Program at CHOP

Statement of Problem

In the United States, nearly 22 million low-income children depend on free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Unfortunately, while summer should be a time of carefree play, with loss of this programming, it’s too often a time of hunger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides meals through the Summer Food Service Program, but many families either don’t know about or aren’t accessing the program. In Pennsylvania alone, only 1 out of every 10 students who use free and reduced-price school lunch accessed summer meals each year.

In Philadelphia, summer meals programs are available to all children 18 and younger, regardless of income and without an application. These programs can be particularly helpful in a city where more than 21% of children are food insecure, compared to less than 17% nationwide. Despite having more than 1,000 Summer Food Service Program sites across the city, many eligible kids don’t participate.


Complete Eats: The USDA Summer Food Service Program at CHOP


Next Steps

Complete Eats continues to expand. Dr. Cullen and her team are completing a formalized evaluation of the effectiveness and implementation of the program. They hope to continue the success of Complete Eats to reach children across the city with healthy meals to help them grow and thrive, and that this program can serve as a model for other health care institutions across the country.

To find a Summer Food Service Program site near you—anywhere across the country—text “Food” to 877-877.  

This project page was last updated in May 2021. 

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Complete Eats: The USDA Summer Food Service Program at CHOP [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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