The White House hosted a conversation on Wednesday about child hunger in America, with experts and direct service providers discussing how hunger continues to harm children across the country. The Obama Administration also announced additional actions to ensure that American children have the food they need to grow, learn and succeed.
Participants discussed the role of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other core nutrition programs in providing American children with the fuel they need to thrive.
New federal actions will ensure that all low-income children have year-round access to the food they need to learn and grow.
The President’s fiscal 2017 budget plans to invest $12 billion over 10 years to reduce child hunger during the summer through a permanent Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program to provide supplemental food benefits during the summer months for all families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. During the academic year, school meals help ensure consistent and adequate access to nutritious food for the nearly 22 million low-income children who receive free or reduced-price school meals. However, only a fraction of these children receive free or reduced-price meals when school is out of session. As a result, low-income children are at higher risk of food insecurity and poor nutrition during the summer.
The Summer EBT, which provides benefits on an electronic debit card that can only be used for food at the grocery store, fills the food budget gap in the summer. The White House said in a statement that rigorous evaluations of U.S. Department of Agriculture pilots of Summer EBT programs have found that such programs can significantly reduce food insecurity among children and improve their diet.
USDA will also announce a new initiative to increase access to school meals for low-income children through a project that will allow interested state agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to use Medicaid data to certify students for free and reduced-priced lunches. This will link eligible children to nutritious school meals with less paperwork for the state, schools and families alike.
Interested states are invited to submit applications. USDA expects to approve approximately five states to begin demonstrations during the upcoming school year (2016-17), with additional states implementing the pilot in subsequent years. USDA is committed to helping 20 states take up this pilot and begin implementing direct certification using Medicaid data over the next three school years.