Many states have decided to forgo participation in the 2024 Summer EBT program and lawmakers at both the federal and state level are introducing bills to tackle lunch shaming and rising costs.
Here’s a look at the latest in school meal legislation.
States opt out of Summer EBT program
Some states have decided to opt out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer EBT program which provides low-income families with extra funds to purchase food during the summer months while their children are out of school.
Families located in states who participate receive $40 per child each month while school is not in session. The federal government covers the benefit costs associated with the program, but participating states are responsible for paying half of the administrative costs.
Alaska, Iowa, Florida and others have opted out of the program, with some state officials citing the program’s extra costs and its allowance of families to use the funds to purchase food with little nutritional value as the reason why they’re not participating.
“No child should go hungry, least of all in Iowa, but the Summer EBT Program fails to address the barriers that exist to healthy and nutritional foods. Iowa’s kids need consistent access to nutritionally dense food, and their families need to feel supported to make healthy choices around food and nutrition. Another benefit card addressed to children is not the way to take on this issue,” said Kelly Garcia, director of Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement.
The USDA first introduced Summer EBT during the pandemic. It became a permanent program after the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.
Federal bill would help summer meal sites deal with rising costs
U.S. Representatives Marc Molinaro (R-NY-19) and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY-9) have introduced theSummer Nutrition Parity Act which would help meal sites participating in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) deal with inflation.
The SFSP allows local sponsors in low-income areas such as summer camps, youth centers and more to provide meals to children over the summer while school is not in session.
The USDA donates food to be served to students through the SFSP. Currently, summer meal sites participating in SFSP receive 1.5 cents of USDA products per meal. The bill would increase that amount by indexing the value of the commodities school meal sites receive through the SFSP to inflation
“We see inflation every time we go to the grocery store. So, it makes sense this same inflationary pressure is pressing down on summer meal sites and threatening their ability to continue feeding kids in-need,” said Rep, Molinaro in a statement. “My bipartisan bill makes a simple fix to index the donations they receive from the federal government to inflation, so they can continue fighting hunger and caring for kids.”
Delaware lawmaker introduces lunch shaming bill
A bill has been introduced in Delaware that would ban lunch shaming in the state. Sponsored by Sherry Dorsey Walker, HB 263 would outlaw schools from preventing students who are behind on school meal payments from participating in school-sponsored activities.
Other states have also enacted similar bills, including North Dakota which passed its lunch shaming bill last year.