Biden Is Launching The Largest Summer Food Program In U.S. History

by Christina Marfice
Doug Mills/Pool/DNY59/Getty

The Biden Administration’s summer food program will feed more than 30 million families once school is out

Despite the U.S. being one of the richest nations on Earth, a shocking number of kids rely on school meals to get nutritious things to eat every day. Of course, that becomes a major issue once school lets out, and breakfast and lunch from the cafeteria are no longer available. That’s why the Biden Administration has just announced an ambitious plan to launch the largest summer food program in U.S. history — designed to help feed more than 30 million low income families. This news comes on the heels of an announcement that the free school lunch program was extended to 2022 — it was previously set to expire in September.

The new plan is part of an Agriculture Department push to address widespread food insecurity across the nation.

“Congress, through the American Rescue Plan, expanded this program to operate during the summer, which I think was just highly responsive to what we need right now,” Stacy Dean, the deputy under secretary of agriculture for food, nutrition and consumer services, said in a release. “We know that summer hunger is a problem in normal years, but obviously this year, with heightened food hardship as a result of the pandemic, we’re happy to deploy the program this summer.”

The summer food program has funding to provide for up to 34 million children, giving them around $375 each to buy food for the roughly 10 weeks that school is out over the summer. That comes out to around $7 per weekday. Kids under 6 years old who qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits will be automatically enrolled. So will all kids who receive free or reduced price lunch at school.

Parents will receive Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, or P-EBT cards, in the mail from their state agencies. The cards have the same limits as other government-funded nutrition assistance programs, which means they can only be used to buy fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, breads, cereals and some other foods and ingredients. They will not be able to be used for alcohol, tobacco, medications, hot foods or any nonfood items.

Congress has funded this summer food program for 2021 and 2022, which is a major step toward addressing food insecurity in kids. The summer months have long been a time when kids living in poverty have struggled with hunger, since many of the reduced price and free breakfast and lunch programs they have access to at school shut down while school is out.

Congress created P-EBT early in the pandemic to help families while schools were closed. Expanding it for the next two summers will help many more hungry kids.