Dear Community: After the Bell, Summer EBT Bridges the Hunger Gap

Dear Community,

As the temperature rises and the schools prepare to close for summer break, the joy of freedom and adventure fills the air for many children. However, for some, this time marks the beginning of a daunting period of uncertainty and hunger.  

Working within schools opened my eyes to the harsh truth that for far too many children, the end of the school year also meant the end of regular meals. The realization that the nutritious lunches and breakfasts provided by the school cafeteria might be the only balanced meals these children receive haunted me. It was a stark reminder of the systemic inequalities that persist within our society, where access to basic necessities like food remains a luxury for millions. 

In fact, it was my desire to combat this injustice and make a tangible difference in the lives of these children that initially drove me to food justice work. At WhyHunger, our mission is to address the root causes of hunger, advocating for systemic change that empowers communities and ensures the human right to nutritious food for all. Over almost 30 years, our WhyHunger Hotline and Find Food tools have been a lifeline for people across the U.S. seeking food resources, particularly during the summer months when children are out of school and childhood hunger spikes. Each year, we team up with the USDA to help connect families in need with free Summer Meal sites across the country to help bridge the gap each summer. We respond to hotline calls from grandparents trying to stretch their budgets, teachers seeking resources to support families they know will struggle and parents who aren’t sure how to get the food their kids need on the table all summer long. 

Initiatives like the new Summer EBT program are a small but important step in the right direction.  And the importance of Summer EBT, a program rolling out in most states this summer that puts $40 per child, per month on an EBT card partners can use for groceries, cannot be overstated. It not only provides essential nutrition to children during the summer months but also helps alleviate the burden on families struggling to make ends meet. By bridging the gap between school years, Summer EBT helps prevent the summer slide in learning and ensures that children return to school ready to learn. This is why I call on the 13 states that have opted out to reconsider next year and ensure that millions more children have access to the foods they need to survive and thrive. Over the next few months, WhyHunger is teaming up with allied organizations across the country to ensure that children, especially the most vulnerable, can access these vital summertime nutrition programs. But we must collectively commit to building a future where no child goes hungry. Together, we can create a world where every child has the opportunity to grow, learn, and succeed, fueled by the nourishment they need to thrive. 

In Solidarity,  

Jenique Jones