Children Should not go Hungry in the Summer Months – Federal Action Can Help
May 11, 2021
By Katherine Ungar, Policy Associate
Chloe and her little brother love going to school and most of all they love their teachers and their school meals. The meals are good and fill their bellies. As the siblings get closer and closer to the weekends, they dread the two days where food is scarce in their home and they oftentimes go to bed with a rumbling tummy on Friday night and often wake up with hunger pains until Monday morning arrives. As the school year comes to a close, they begin to worry about how they’re going to be able to get food to eat and how often they might go without. For many children across Ohio like Chloe and her little brother, the summer months aren’t all sunshine and carefree. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, about 13% of Ohio families with children worry about food insecurity and are unsure or don’t feel confident about where they will get their next meal. The summer months aren’t all sunshine for far too many Ohio children who go hungry without school lunches when the school year ends.
The wealthiest nation in the world should not have a hunger crisis. While Covid-19 shed light on the vastness of child hunger, this problem existed prior to the pandemic. Unless and until we take bold (and permanent) actions to address hunger, all children cannot flourish.
Our schools fill critical roles in our communities to help children get the daily nutrition they need, with nearly 22 million children nationwide receiving free or reduced priced meals during the school year. In Ohio, 40% of students, 717,740 children, received free or reduced priced lunch in the 2019-2020 school year. However, when children leave their school buildings for summer break, many lose access to these meals, and child hunger grows. In fact, across the country, only a mere 16% of children who need USDA funded summer meals are able to access them.
CDF-Ohio is encouraged by the federal programs that have been expanded (SNAP) and implemented (P-EBT) over the last year, as well as the flexibilities provided to meal distribution sites and schools. These policies and programs have shown promise in the fight to end child hunger.
In this blog post, we focus on the recently approved Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) plan for children under 6 in SNAP households, as well as the guidance around Summer-EBT released by the USDA this week. Finally, we applaud the proposal set forth in President Biden’s American Families Plan that includes comprehensive strategies to tackle child hunger, including a permanent Summer P-EBT program.
P-EBT for Ohio Children under 6 in SNAP Households
In this prior blog post, we explored the opportunity for Ohio to provide additional funding for food to Ohio’s youngest children. Fortunately, Ohio’s plan for this was recently approved by the USDA. Under this plan, Ohio will distribute funding for nutritional support for children under 6 in SNAP households. This includes newborn babies, infants, and toddlers. Within that plan, Ohio estimates that it will be providing additional funding for nutritional support to around 202,000 additional children. The state will determine the exact amount of funding on a monthly basis, based on a statewide average of days out of school. For the months of October-January, the state estimates around $100.00 in P-EBT funding for qualifying child under 6. Families do not need to apply for this program. By the end of May, families should see additional funds on their Ohio Direction card.
Earlier this week, USDA FNS released guidance for the Summer-EBT program. Under this program, school-aged students who receive free or reduced priced meals at school through the National School Lunch Program, as well as young children under 6 years old in SNAP households, will be receiving funding for nutritional support. Families of eligible children would receive $6.82 per child for each weekday (an estimated 55 summer weekdays), which adds up to $375 per child over the summer months. States can elect to use this calculation determined by USDA or calculate their own amount based on state specific data. Once approved by USDA, we will issue another blog to discuss the details of Ohio’s Summer-EBT plan.
Notably, Summer-EBT will only be available to school aged students eligible for free or reduced priced meals, and for children under 6 in SNAP households. Therefore, it is critical that schools and community partners encourage families to sign up for free or reduced priced meals if they might be eligible.
Now is the Time to Apply for SNAP!
Similarly, now is the time to encourage families who may be eligible to apply for SNAP. Not only would they receive the critical dollars for food from the SNAP program, but for those with children under 6, they would also receive the P-EBT funding. Additionally, immigrant, new American, and refugee families that meet eligibility requirements should enroll in SNAP. The Biden administration rolled back many of the Trump provisions around the Public Charge rule and SNAP. Enrolling and receiving SNAP benefits will not impact an individual’s immigration status.
If a person of family thinks they may be eligible for SNAP, NOW is the time to apply! They can do so at https://benefits.ohio.gov or by calling their county Jobs and Family Services. Find contact information for their county JFS at https://jfs.ohio.gov/County/County_Directory.stm
Permanent Summer-EBT- American Families Plan
The Pandemic-EBT program has provided necessary nutritional support to so many of our families struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. But we know child hunger predated the pandemic. Therefore, it is critical that we meet the needs of families through permanent changes.
On April 28, President Biden introduced the American Families Plan, which outlines a comprehensive approach to strengthen federal food and nutrition programs. Among many provisions to stabilize families, the plan includes:
- Establishing a permanent program to provide Summer-EBT funds to all students eligible to receive free or reduced-priced school meals during the school year. If effectuated, these funds could reach upwards of 29 million children.
- Increasing the number of schools participating in the community eligibility (“CEP” schools). CEP schools allow a school that meets certain eligibility requirements to provide free school meals to all children. By increasing the number of schools participating in community eligibility, we are closer to free school meals for all. Also, schools providing free school meals to all of their students eliminates the stigma associated with free or reduced priced meals.
Read more about the anti-hunger provisions included in the American Families Plan here.
Robust and permanent actions, like those outlined above, are necessary steps in the fight to end child hunger.