In a new move designed to help further combat food insecurity in America’s youth, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new plan to help feed the more than 30 million at-risk, hungry school children over the summer months while school is not in session.
“If children and children’s learning and children’s health is a priority for us in this country, then we need to fund our priorities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in an interview with NPR’s All Things Considered. “I think it’s an important day.”
Corey Turner of NPR has reported that “the move expands what’s known as the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT, program into the summer months.”
“P-EBT takes the value of the meals kids aren’t getting at school, about $6.82 per child per weekday, according to USDA, and puts it onto a debit card that families can use at the grocery store,” Turner added. “Households already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — once known as food stamps — can have the value placed directly onto their SNAP debit card.”
According to Vilsack, all children who are eligible to receive free or low-cost meals during the school year will be eligible for the new P-EBT summer expansion. And children younger than 6 years old will also qualify if they are currently living in a household that receives SNAP benefits.
The USDA has estimated that the program will provide approximately $375 per child to eligible families to help them get through the summer months.
Turner reported that “currently, at least 37 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been approved by USDA to provide P-EBT since the program’s inception.” Vilsack also said he is working hard every day to get the rest of the states in the country on board with the program, saying, “when I took this job, I think only 12 states were currently enrolled.”
Vilsack added that while some states have been resistant to the program because the way it was introduced seemed a bit murky, there should be no resistance now as to how it can help individuals dealing with food insecurity.
“Mom and Dad get a card. They are able to go to the grocery store. They now have more resources to be able to feed their family,” he said.