By Kelly McCarthy, GMA
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new effort on Monday that will feed more than 30 million children over the summer by expanding the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits funded by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Low-income families struggle to put nutritious food on the table during the summer months when school is out of session, so these programs have acted as a lifeline for some families.
The summer food programs on average have reached less than 20% of those fed during the school year, but now the USDA will offer P-EBT benefits to low-income children of all ages.
“The expansion of P-EBT benefits over the summer is a first-of-its-kind, game-changing intervention to reduce child hunger in the United States,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “By providing low-income families with a simple benefit over the summer months, USDA is using an evidenced-based solution to drive down hunger and ensure no child has to miss a meal.”
P-EBT was established in March 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide families with payment to make up for meals missed when schools were closed. It was originally set to expire on Sept. 30, 2021, but the benefits from the ARP Act are now available for the duration of the summer months.
Previous summer P-EBT pilots proved successful at “reducing severe food insecurity as well as improving the quality of children’s diets,” the USDA said. “Recent research by the Brookings Institute confirms P-EBT also has a measurable impact on food insecurity, decreasing food hardship faced by low-income children by 30% in the week following benefit issuance.”
All children eligible who are eligible for the temporary nutrition benefit will receive an EBT card to be used to purchase food. Typically, the families of eligible children receive $6.82 per child, per week day, which comes out to roughly $375 per child during the summer.
“Help is here for financially stressed families trying to put food on the table,” Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, said. “Our nutrition assistance programs are powerful tools that are critical to America reaching a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic.”