April 27, 2021 -- The Department of Agriculture says it will send qualifying families at least $375 for each child under 18 to help pay for food over the summer months. This expansion of the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program, covering more than 34 million children, will be the largest summer food program in U.S. history.
Children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the school year qualify for this benefit, as do children under age 6 who live in a household receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. According to the most recent data released by the Census Bureau, about 9 million children in the U.S. either “sometimes” or “often” don’t have enough to eat.
Most families will receive around $7 per child, per weekday -- roughly $375 for the summer. This is in addition to any food children may receive through the federal Summer Food Service Program. Although it’s funded by the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, the money will be distributed by the states, so timing may vary.
“This is nutrition assistance across the board,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told MSNBC on Monday. “Families who’ve been struggling financially, one of the places where they have to really focus is what they can buy at the grocery store. If you give them a little extra cash, they’re in a position to buy the fruits and vegetables that we all want folks to have access to.”
The P-EBT money will be loaded onto existing SNAP cards or special P-EBT cards, and it can be used to buy the same items covered by SNAP: food for the household, including snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. It can’t be used for things like alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, and hot food.
“This is about child health and, frankly, it’s about their educational opportunities,” said Vilsack. “The healthier they are, the more likely they’re going to be better learners.”