The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced a new effort funded by the American Rescue Plan to provide adequate nutrition to more than 30 million children over the summer by expanding Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits. Summer months are difficult for low-income children because they lack access to school meals that fill a nutrition gap during the school year. When school is out of session, summer feeding programs—considered a lifeline for some families—reach just a small fraction, typically less than 20%, of the number served during the school year. This summer, USDA will offer P-EBT benefits to all low-income children of all ages, helping families put food on the table during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“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,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “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 established in March 2020 to provide food dollars to families to make up for meals missed when schools have closed due to COVID-19. The program was set to expire on September 30, 2021, but through the American Rescue Plan Act, benefits are now available for the duration of the pandemic, including during the summer months.
P-EBT builds on lessons learned from USDA’s Summer EBT pilots, which began in 2011 and have proven successful at reducing severe food insecurity as well as improving the quality of children’s diets. 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.
Children are eligible for this temporary nutrition benefit – loaded onto an EBT card that can then be used to purchase food – if they are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year or if they are under age six and live in a SNAP household. Families of eligible children typically receive $6.82 per child, per weekday, or roughly $375 per child over the summer months.
“Help is here for financially stressed families trying to put food on the table,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “Our nutrition assistance programs are powerful tools that are critical to America reaching a full and equitable recovery from the pandemic.”
For more on the estimated impact of this effort broken down by state, visit www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/usda-p-ebt-summer-2021.pdf (PDF, 105 KB).
Some 29 million adults and as many as 12 million children haven’t always had enough to eat throughout this pandemic. Further, food insecurity has disproportionate impacts on communities of color, with more than 1 in 5 Black and Latino adults living in food insecure households compared to 1 in 9 adults overall. However, recent data from the Census Bureau shows food insecurity among adults has fallen from 14 percent to 9 percent from December 2020 to April 2021.
The announcement today comes in addition to a variety of actions taken recently by USDA to strengthen food security, drive down hunger, and put a greater emphasis on the importance of nutrition. Just recently, USDA maximized economic relief for struggling families by taking administrative action on SNAP emergency allotments by targeting an additional $1 billion per month to roughly 25 million people. The Biden-Harris Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act provides over $12 billion in new nutrition assistance to address hardship caused by the pandemic, including:
- Extending a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits— providing over $1.1 billion per month in additional benefits for about 41 million participants—through September 2021;
- Adding $1.1 billion in new funding for territories that operate nutrition assistance block grants—home to nearly 3 million Americans—to support those hard-hit by the pandemic;
- To help reopen schools safely in the fall and address child food insecurity, USDA issued a broad range of flexibilities that will allow schools and childcare institutions to serve healthy meals for free to all kids in the 2021-2022 school year;
- Funding meals for young adults experiencing homelessness through Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) emergency shelters;
- Providing nearly $900 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), including a temporary increase in fruit and vegetable vouchers to $35 per month and an historic investment in innovation and outreach to better serve more than 6.2 million people that use WIC to support a healthy start for infants and young children.
For more information about P-EBT, please visit the P-EBT website.