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Why Some States Are Leaving Summer Food Aid for Kids on the Table


January 5, 2023 - Food Fix


Food Fix recently published an article discussing summer EBT programs to support youth when they are out of school. Thirty-four states, along with several territories and Tribal nations, recently opted into a federal program that will give grocery benefits to low-income public-school children during the summer. Read an excerpt of the article:


The deadline for local governments to tell USDA whether they intend to run Summer EBT programs in 2024 was Jan. 1. It now appears that several states are officially skipping out on the federal aid – a decision that leaves millions of kids without the food benefits Congress approved in 2022.


Wait, what is Summer EBT? The program gives public-school households extra grocery benefits in the form of an EBT (debit-like) card as a way to help replace school meals during the summer months. It comes out to about $40 per child, per month for families that qualify for free and reduced-price meals. For a typical summer break, that translates to about $120 in food benefits per kid.


Tribal nations take the lead: One particularly interesting twist in Oklahoma: While the state government didn’t opt in, both the Cherokee and Chickasaw Nations did. Because they have sovereignty over large swaths of the state, many Native and non-Native schoolchildren will be covered by their programs, including in Tulsa, Okla. 


The word from USDA: I asked USDA about the status of Summer EBT and whether the department is encouraging more local governments to participate. A spokesperson said in an email that USDA is “pleased to see the strong progress made in launching Summer EBT in its inaugural year.” 


“The Department has been, and will continue, providing extensive assistance, trainings, tools, and more to the states, territories, and tribes who have committed to implementing the program this year, as well as those planning for 2025 and beyond,” the spokesperson said. “Those that do not launch the program this summer will have future opportunities to opt-in, and we hope every state will consider doing so.”

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