Summer Meals at the Library Are a Key Service, SLJ Survey Shows

More than 40 percent of survey respondents report that summer meals are the third most popular summer initiative at those libraries that offer them. 

For families that are food insecure, the end of the school year means the end of much-needed free meals. In some areas, libraries try to fill in the gap with summer meal programs.

In the SLJ survey on public libraries and summer programming, 20 percent of the 773 respondents from public libraries across the United States said they offer a summer meal program. Meals are offered more in the South and urban areas, but wherever they are offered, patrons take advantage.

Summer meal programs were No. 10 on the list of most popular programs by number of participants. That ranking alone shows a need, but when looking only at libraries that offer meal programs, it jumps to No. 3 in “popularity” among them. It is a service used by more than 42 percent of patrons.

The survey results show a need that doesn’t know geographic or demographic boundaries. Participation occurs at more than 40 percent in nearly all sizes of libraries, in all geographic regions, and each type of area from urban to rural and suburbia and the small towns in between. The only times the numbers dip below 40 is in libraries in areas with more than 500,000 people. But that doesn’t mean big city libraries aren’t meeting the needs of food insecure patrons with their meal programs. When broken down by “metro status,” urban areas see 46.4 percent partake of the meals.



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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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