From the Urban Institute
Summer may feel far off, but for the nearly 30 million children receiving school lunches each day, summer can be a daunting prospect if meals aren’t guaranteed. The current summer option only reaches 1 in 7 children, and states have until April 1 to decide if they’ll choose to adopt additional supports that could reach more students in need.
The omnibus bill passed at the end of 2022 provides two new ways to prevent students from going hungry during the summer when school is out: school district–provided grab-and-go meal options in lieu of onsite group meals; and a permanent state option to provide a debit-type card with grocery benefits to families whose children are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also piloted a home-delivery model called Meals-to-You that could offer yet another model in the future.
But eligibility for and availability of these federal programs rely on states’ ability and willingness to participate. And summer hunger isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue.
Within state contexts, needs differ widely between rural and urban communities because rural areas often face additional barriers, such as transportation to school meal sites and ability to pick up grab-and-go meals. When deciding what options best fit students during the summer, states should consider their own states’ context and families’ specific needs.
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