While the challenge of access to healthy food features prominently in the literature, access to federal nutrition programs, specifically USDA’s Summer Meals Program, is relatively undocumented. Participation in the program depends on a number of complex variables, including site availability, neighborhood dynamics, and community investment. The purpose of this study is to determine neighborhood indicators that correlate with the coverage and density of summer meals sites in Texas. Attributes of the community and the number of meal sites were collected at the census tract level, and paired t-tests revealed the statistical significance of differences between tracts with and without meal sites. We also implemented a regression model to predict the number of sites within a tract as a function of neighborhood variables. Urban areas have the greatest access to summer meals sites, while access is limited in suburban and rural areas. In general, method of transportation proved significant. We find that the site coverage and density in areas of different urbanicity depends on the availability of transportation.

Key Take Away Points

  • Urban areas have the most summer meal sites, but they also have the most unmet need.
  • Availability of transportation in a Census tract strongly influences the meal site coverage and site density in both urban and rural areas.
  • Regression provides a measure of site density in urban areas.

Author Biography

Rachel Wilkerson works as a Data Scientist at Baylor University’s Texas Hunger Initiative (THI). Durwesh Khalfe graduated from Baylor with a degree in Sociology and worked with THI and Share our Strength as a summer intern. Dr. Kathy Krey is the Director of Research at THI.


We would like to thank the Walmart Foundation and Share our Strength for their support of summer meals research.