Money

New grocery benefit aimed at keeping students fed this summer

In 2024, 35 states, all five U.S. territories and four tribes are taking part in the program during its inaugural year.
A customer pushing a cart with groceries
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jun 04, 2024

Millions of families concerned about the high cost of groceries will soon receive an additional benefit aimed at making sure children have access to food when they're out of school.

Many students rely on free breakfast and lunch during the school day — so when summer rolls around, that means ten fewer meals each week.

Food banks across the country are prepared for a surge in demand.

"We know summer is a really hard time for families," said Jessica Morgan, the chief programs officer with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

She said when students aren't in school, "they don't have access to the free school breakfast and lunch programs, and that's where summer meal programs come in."

This summer, millions of families will receive additional help.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects about 21 million children to benefit from its new summer grocery benefits program known as Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, or SUN Bucks in some states.

Families with eligible school-aged children receive $120 per child to stock up on groceries during the summer at stores and farmers markets.

In 2024, 35 states, all five U.S. territories and four tribes are taking part in the program during its inaugural year.

Summer EBT is designed to work with other meal programs already offered by states. For SUN Bucks specifically, if families are already enrolled in benefits such as SNAP, school-aged children will automatically be enrolled. Other families can apply through USDA.gov and use the agency's Summer Meals Site Finder to pinpoint summer meals for kids in your community.

In a statement to Scripps News, the USDA said when school is out, kids lose access to "vital meals," putting them at a higher risk for hunger: "USDA has helped address this summer hunger gap since 1968 by providing group meals to kids at schools and other community sites. However, due to various barriers, only 1 in 6 children who eat free or reduced-price school lunch participated in these group summer meals."

The USDA expects more states to provide summer EBT next year.