Your Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a marathon, not a race. In our Webbie: Don’t Have A Bummer Summer, I mention the importance of starting your SFSP strong with a kick-off event. By starting with a large event to announce your summer feeding program, districts build up excitement and raise awareness to families in the area.

A problem arises when districts treat their kick-off event as the end of their marketing efforts, instead of the beginning. Don’t put all your energy sprinting at the beginning of the race instead of pacing yourself for the marathon ahead.

Don’t End At The Beginning

A successful kick-off event announces to students, parents, and school staff that the district’s SFSP has begun. Planning fun activities, having music (think a local live band or DJ), and inviting local officials like firefighters and business owners goes a long way towards getting a SFSP off the ground. Think of a kick-off as the opening night premiere, or red carpet event, for your summer program.

. As students get between 2.5 to 3 months off during summer break, summer can be a long time. When it comes to maintaining momentum for your SFSP, one event at the beginning of a 3month summer won’t cut it.

An all-too-common situation for SFSPs is they’ll start strong and garner a lot of attention early on, but by mid-summer, participation begins to fall off. By placing all their marketing efforts at the beginning of summer, many schools leave nothing to reenergize their summer program during the mid-summer dip.

To keep your program in the minds of parents and students, focus on creating SFSP events throughout the summer, before parents and students  lose their attention elsewhere.

Mid-Summer Event

In Don’t Have A Bummer Summer, I explain how mid-summer events, or a second kick-off event, can revitalize your summer feeding program. After the July 4th weekend, participation tends to drop. Without something to reintroduce your SFSP, parents will go elsewhere. This is when hosting a mid-summer event can help remind your local community about summer feeding options.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

A successful mid-summer event doesn’t have to be all that different than a kick-off event  from the start of summer. Double down on the activities that worked at your kick-off and scrap the ideas that didn’t quite pan out.

Hosting the event at a park, where younger students can run and play, is usually a popular spot that is also easy to reserve. Because it’s outside, you can host outdoor games, face paintings, and other outdoor activities.

Partner with local businesses to volunteer and lead activities at your site. Pet stores can bring animals for adoption, arts and crafts store can provide materials for finger painting, and even local libraries can get kids enrolled in library cards. A local live band or DJ (perhaps even student ran) can also draw attention and liveliness to your event, while also providing free marketing for the band.

Final Thoughts

A successful kick-off event is crucial to set your SFSP off on the right track. But don’t get complacent once the heavy lifting at the start of summer is past you. Hosting a mid-summer event, even if it repeats many of the activates of your initial kick-off event, is crucial to give your summer feeding program the boost it needs to sustain participation throughout summer.