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President Biden Expands Program To Keep Millions Of Kids Fed During Summer Break

The program aims to provide each child roughly $375 for 10 weeks which breaks down to about $7 per each weekday.

by Morgan Brinlee

For millions of low-income children, summer break brings an end to stable meals, leaving many hungry. To address this gap, President Joe Biden has used the American Rescue Plan Act to expand a pandemic response program designed to provide low-income families with a reliable way of keeping children fed while schools are closed. The president’s summer food program aims to feed 34 million kids over their summer break by expanding the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program first launched in March 2020.

“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 released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “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.”

The USDA has estimated that traditional summer meal plan programs reach less than 20% of the children who generally rely on similar free meal plans during the school year. In an attempt to reach more children, Biden authorized the USDA to expand and continue a program originally set to expire Sept. 30, effectively providing food dollars to all families with low-income children in need of meals during the summer months.

Under the expanded program, eligible children will receive roughly $375 to cover the cost of meals missed due to summertime school closures. According to the USDA, that breaks down to between $7 or $6.82 per weekday for the 10 to 11 weeks of summer break most children receive. Eligible families with more than one child will receive $375 per child.

According to the USDA, any child eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year or who is under the age of 6 and living in a SNAP-eligible household is eligible to receive P-EBT benefits. These benefits consist of food dollars loaded onto an EBT card that can then be used by the child’s family to purchase things like fruits, vegetables, bread, cereal, meats, milk and other dairy products, and more. NBC News has reported the expanded P-EBT program is expected to serve roughly 34 million children this summer.

“Help is here for financially stressed families trying to put food on the table,” Stacy Dean, USDA’s deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, said in a statement released Monday. “Our nutrition assistance programs are powerful tools that are critical to America reaching a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic.”

To keep children fed once schools resume next fall, the Biden administration has also committed to expanding its universal free school meal program through June 2022. “[The] USDA will remain relentless in ensuring our nation’s children get the critical nutrition they need,” Vilsack said earlier this month.