Julie Bowen: Summer EBT is one of our best bets for ending child summer hunger

July 14, 2021
by Julie Bowen

As a mom, one of my greatest joys is watching my kids thrive — it’s something every family deserves. Unfortunately, millions of children are struggling to learn and grow because they don’t have enough to eat. In the world’s richest country, this should never be the case. 

An alarming reality: a child near you is hungry. 

This year, Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, estimates that 13 million children may experience food insecurity due to the economic fallout of COVID-19. Kids of color and kids in rural areas are especially vulnerable to hunger during these tough times.

The above figures should be startling for all of us. Kids who go hungry are more likely to receive poor grades at school, develop health conditions like anemia or asthma, and experience other consequences that can last up into adulthood. 

The good news: we have tools to end child hunger for good, including the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (Summer EBT) program.

Decision makers in Congress have the power to use tools at their disposal to ensure more kids go to bed with full tummies. One tool lawmakers can invest in is the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (Summer EBT) program. 

When classes end, and school meals are no longer available, kids who rely on school lunch and breakfast suddenly face several summer months of hunger — turning a time for fun and rest into one of worry. To help make sure children have access to food year-round, and not just when class is in session, our lawmakers can make use of Summer EBT. 

A permanent, nationwide Summer EBT program would provide eligible families with kids with grocery cards during the summer months and when schools are closed. Imagine it: by providing extra funds for families to spend on groceries, we could make sure families in need are able to stretch their household food budgets and children have enough to eat during out-of-school times. 

Summer EBT has already proven to be successful at keeping tables, fridges, and pantries full. 

In Summer EBT pilots across the nation, providing families with grocery cards to make up for meals missed at school led to cutting rates of food insecurity among children by almost one-third, and increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other nutritious foods. 

The Summer EBT pilots were so effective that they served as the basis for the implementation of the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program — a program rolled out during the height of the COVID-19 spread to provide grocery cards to families with kids who were no longer able to rely on school meals due to school closures. According to recent studies of P-EBT, the program reduced food hardship faced by kids who are low-income by 30 percent in the first week following the receipt of benefits.

It has been found that families who are low-income spend an additional $300 dollars on groceries during the summer months. Investing in Summer EBT would be a huge relief for families and help get us one step closer to ending child hunger.

We have an opportunity to fight child hunger. Let’s take it.

During COVID-19, our communities and government have taken advantage of new ways of keeping our kids nourished, from distributing meals through no-touch methods to providing waivers that have made it easier for organizations like food banks to meet the food needs of children. Within this window of opportunity, we can continue to make real investments in ending child hunger. 

The first step: transforming Summer EBT from a pilot program to one that’s here to stay. To help make that happen, it’s up to us to ensure that Congress understands the necessity of Summer EBT for feeding kids now and nurturing their growth in the years ahead.

Millions of children are counting on us to take action. Let’s not miss the chance to do so. 

Learn more about Feeding America's advocacy efforts and find easy ways to get involved by visiting our advocacy page.
 

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