by Jason Boswell, VP of Program Management, Conduent Payment Services
Low-income children are among the most vulnerable populations in America. According to the nonprofit No Kid Hungry, one in six kids may not know where their next meal is coming from. During the school year, free and reduced-price lunches are available through public schools, and during the summer break, the USDA works to fill the gap with the Summer Food Service Program, or SFSP. Sites across the country plan to deliver more than 200 million free meals to kids this summer alone.
But because the SFSP doesn’t reach everywhere, the USDA also awards Summer EBT grants to states and rural communities. This year’s grants were announced in June and awarded $31.5 million in funds to Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Chickasaw and Cherokee nations.
“Summer EBT can help close the summer ‘nutrition gap’ faced by low-income households, when schools are closed and their children no longer have access to healthy school meals,” said Yvette Jackson, Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “This is particularly true in areas that are difficult to serve through existing summer meals programs, such as rural locations or areas where transportation options are limited.”
Because Summer EBT benefits are delivered to participants through prepaid debit cards, Conduent is often asked to support Summer EBT efforts when our client states receive grants for their programs. For example, in Virginia, nearly 9000 children receive benefits in the summer. We issue the cards, and supply a card to each eligible child participating in the Virginia Summer EBT Program, ensuring that the eligible child has access when they need it.
In Michigan, we’ve supported the Summer EBT for Children program on the Bridge Card since 2011, including the printing and mailing of program materials. In the past two years this program has expanded to cover 85,000 families across the state. In 2016, Michigan’s grant was expanded to enable the extension of Summer EBT into the Flint area. More than 39,000 children in Flint and Genesee County are eligible to receive a package of benefits with a specific nutritional goal – leveraging nutritious foods that may help mitigate the effects of lead absorption. More information on that program is available here.
Among this summer’s first-time grantees is Tennessee, which plans to operate a Summer EBT demonstration in Greene, Hancock, and Hawkins Counties in 2018. Tennessee will be transitioning EBT processing services to Conduent in early 2018 with Conduent supporting the EBT processing of its Summer EBT program. In that capacity, Conduent will assist the State in designing a new EBT card specifically for Summer EBT, issuing that card to participating families and providing the processing platform that allows those families to use their new card for food purchases.
As the USDA and state agencies work together to help address food insecurity for America’s children and families, we’re thrilled to support their efforts through our payment card programs – all summer long, and every day of the year.