Low-income San Diego County families with school-aged children will be able to receive at least $40 a month to pay for food this summer under a new federal program.
Millions of California schoolchildren participate in federal breakfast and lunch programs during the school year, but when school is out for the summer, many no longer have access and are at risk of suffering from hunger.
The new program – known as Summer Electronics Benefits Transfer, or Summer EBT – will give families $40 each summer month per eligible child to buy groceries, similar to the benefits of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. More than 3.8 million California children are expected to be eligible.
California has already joined, as have more than two dozen other states, territories and tribal nations. Others have until Monday to tell the federal government if they plan to do so. Some Republican-led states have said they will not participate, with one governor citing childhood obesity.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it tested the program as a demonstration project for years and notes that a study of a similar pandemic-era program showed it reduced about a third the number of children suffering from hunger.
The federal government will cover the full cost of benefits and half of the administrative costs; states should intervene in the other half.
The new permanent program, created by Congress last year, replaces a pandemic-era program intended to compensate low-income families for on-campus meals their children missed while schools were closed. But many families never received or used these cards.
Under Summer EBT, families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals can receive $40 per month per child during the school term, in the form of EBT debt cards that They can use in grocery stores, farmers markets and more.
Children must be determined individually to qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. That’s different from pandemic EBT, which was also available to families who were not low-income but whose children attended schools that provided universal free meals under a federal program.
Summer EBT does not replace other existing summer meal programs; it completes them. The USDA encourages the family to participate in all programs available to them. More information is available here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/seamless-summer-and-other-options-schools
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