This past Monday, the Biden and the USDA announced an upcoming effort to feed over 30 million children over the course of summer 2021 through the expansion of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer. The program will receive funding through Joe Biden‘s American Rescue Plan.
One of the most difficult things low-income families struggle with is putting nutritious food on the table while school is out during the summer. Programs like this one act as lifelines for these low-income families.
Summer food programs often never reach more than 20% of children fed for free during the school year. With the USDA and P-EBT in the mix, this particular program is set to reach millions of low-income children around the country.
How Will The Program Impact U.S. Children?
In a recent state, Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, addressed the Biden food program saying, “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. 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.”
P-EBT was first introduced in March of 2020 as the news of the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country. Families were struggling, as their children were missing the free meals that they would have typically received from school.
The program had a set expiration date of September 30, 2020, though the ARP act benefits will now be available throughout this coming summer.
In past instances, P-EBT summer programs had success in “reducing severe food insecurity as well as improving the quality of children’s diets,” according to the USDA.
“Recent research by the Brookings Institute confirms P-EBT also has a measurable impact on food insecurity, decreasing food hardship faced by low-income children by 30% in the week following benefit issuance.”
Eligible children will receive EBT cards, which can be used to purchase food during this time. Families with children who are eligible for this program receive $6.82 per child. Over the course of the summer, this equates to around $375 per child for the summer months.
Stacy Dean, the USDA undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Customer Services, said, “Help is here for financially stressed families trying to put food on the table. Our nutrition assistance programs are powerful tools that are critical to America reaching a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic.”
The Impact of Food Insecurity on American Families
Food insecurities have had a disproportionate impact on families of color. From December 2020 to April 2021, however, Census Bureau data showed that food insecurity fell by around 5% for adults.
Beyond the food assistance program, which is set to initiate this summer, the USDA chose to add an additional $1 billion in emergency allotments each month for the 25 million people who use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) for the Biden food program.
Craig Gundersen, a University of Illinois agricultural and consumer economics professor, says that “The question is if all this is just for the pandemic. If so, then it’s OK. But if this is something they’re planning to have or fight to have well into the future, then this is really historic.”