February 01, 2024

Interpretive Summary: USDA launches the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer

USDA launches the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that 35 states, along with five United States territories, and four Tribes plan to be the first to launch the new, permanent summer grocery benefits program for children in summer 2024. The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) will serve over 20 million children and provide nearly $2.5 billion in grocery benefits, accounting for 70% of the children in the United States eligible to participate in the program. 

The Summer EBT provides grocery-buying benefits to low-income families with school-aged children when schools are closed for the summer. More than 30 million children across America could benefit from Summer EBT. The benefits will come in the form of pre-loaded cards that families can use to purchase groceries. Participating families will receive $40 per eligible child, per month. These benefits work together with other available USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) nutrition assistance programs to help ensure kids have consistent access to nutrition when school is out.

“Summer grocery benefits are becoming a reality for many communities across the nation and for tens of millions of children who will receive the nutrition they need to grow, learn, and thrive,” said USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We applaud all the leaders and partners who are stepping up to make the program’s inaugural year a success. Together we’re making progress in closing the summer hunger gap and ensuring children are nourished and healthy year-round.”

States and Tribes that do not launch the program this summer will have future opportunities to opt-in. The USDA’s goal is for Summer EBT to be available nationwide as soon as possible. The USDA is offering extensive assistance, trainings, tools and more to the states, U.S. territories and Tribes participating in 2024, and as well as to those planning for 2025. The program is part of the goals discussed at the Biden-Harris Administration’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health to enhance food and nutrition security and improve food access and affordability. Action began on the Summer EBT program in December 2022 and was enacted on a bipartisan basis by Congress.

“No kid should have to spend their summer hungry, or without nutritious food,” said USDA Agriculture Deputy Secretary Torres Small. “Summer EBT is a giant step forward in meeting the needs of our nation’s children and families throughout the year, and especially in the summer months.”

During the Coronavirus COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, States, certain Indian Tribal Organizations, and territories operated a temporary program similar to Summer EBT, which demonstrated the potential of expanding the program nationwide. According to the USDA, the results of the COVID-19 program have proven that summer grocery benefits reduce the number of children with very low food security by 33%. The program also increases whole grain, fruit, vegetable, and dairy consumption while reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption. Lastly, hunger was reduced in at least 2.7 to 3.9 million American children. 

See the participating states, United States territories, and tribal nations here