Summer EBT food program estimated to help 644,000 kids

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, January 30, 2024

One in eight Tennesseans who have experienced hunger is a child. The Volunteer State is tackling childhood hunger this summer by opting into the new Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer program.
This initiative will allocate $77 million to provide food assistance for $644,000 low-income students across the state.
Signe Anderson, senior director of nutrition advocacy with the Tennessee Justice Center, said eligible children, primarily those receiving free or reduced-price lunch at school, would receive $40 per month, totaling $120 in food benefits over the summer break.
The state has until Feb. 15 to submit its plan for the program to the USDA for approval.
“When school’s out, they lose access to those school meals again. So, summer EBT is a great resource for families to be able to have some extra money to support them during the summertime and connect kids to meals again,” Anderson explained.
Anderson added that in the COVID public-health emergency, families with children eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school also received Pandemic EBT funding to help them afford groceries during school closures and summer vacation. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer EBT will be a permanent program beginning this summer.
Anderson pointed out that a significant challenge for Tennessee will be securing funding to cover the administrative costs of the Summer EBT program implementation. In the meantime, she adds another hurdle may be identifying kids that are not directly certified for school meals.
“So those kids that are on SNAP, those kids whose families are part of TennCare or TANF, they all are directly certified to school meals, but the other kids, there will have to be a way that the state identifies how to connect them to Summer EBT,” she continued.
Anderson said she is thankful for the commissioners at the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services and Gov. Bill Lee for opting into the Summer EBT program.
She added leading up the beginning of the year, close to 500 people signed a petition and sent letters to Tennessee officials, recommending that they adopt the Summer EBT program.

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