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  • Larissa Martin

Why Millions of Low-Income Children Could Go Hungry This Summer

With summer quickly approaching for millions of kids, many low-income parents feel extra pressure to feed their children now that they’ll be home from school. Free and reduced lunch programs ensure that children from low-income families have enough to eat during the school day, but as the school year ends, many kids lose their primary source of nutrition.

Some areas have programs that provide food for low-income students during the summer, but sadly, not all do.

Until recently, this left millions of students starving during the summer months.

However, in 2022, the federal government initiated a program — the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children (Summer EBT) — that will fund summer meals for over 30 million low-income students. This program, which will start this summer, sounds like an incredible way to help ensure that all children have enough to eat year-round. There’s just one problem: states must join the program individually — and only 36 states opted to join.


This means that nearly 8 million students in 14 states will likely lose the chance to receive adequate nutrition during the summer.


In explaining why their states chose not to participate in the program, multiple governors spoke negatively of federal funding for student meals. Mississippi governor Tate Reeves even negatively compared the Summer EBT program to “welfare,” implying that some people might abuse it. But this line of thinking is shortsighted. While some people may try to use the program when their children don’t qualify, the Summer EBT program could help millions of students in every state. But right now, children in 14 states will likely return to school malnourished after a summer without full meals.

Low-income families often struggle to feed their children due to high food costs. These families do the best they can to make sure that their children receive enough to eat, but with limited resources and fresh food hard to come by, many children from low-income families eat just one full meal each day: their school’s free or reduced-price lunch. While federally mandated free and reduced-price lunches are an important way to keep students fed and mentally fit for school, millions of students currently lose out on nutritious meals during the summer months.

No child should miss out on three months of meals because school is no longer in session. No child should lose their only source of food. And no child should go back to school starving.


The Summer EBT program could potentially help resolve this issue, but only if all 50 states join.

State leaders should care about children and their health, and the fact that governors in nearly one-third of our states are prioritizing politics over children’s health is seriously disturbing. Some of these politicians have likely publicly stated how much they care about children’s health and happiness, but sadly, their actions show the exact opposite.

Approving federal funding for students to receive meals both inside and outside of school is an incredible step forward, but all states need to register for Summer EBT to ensure that every student is fed year-round. All children deserve to return to school nourished and healthy — regardless of their parents’ income.


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