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The Biden administration, honoring its pledge to support all young people, has introduced a summer food program for underserved families across the nation. Families of young students who receive free or reduced-rate meals at school will continue to receive assistance in purchasing and providing meals over the 10-week summer break.
For teachers, summer break is a time of concern and worry for students and families who lack the means to provide enough sustenance for children — and for their adult caregivers as well.
“Now I know that when all my kids are home for the summer, the ones who aren’t from economically strong families will have access to a meal,” said Sizi Goyah, a math teacher at Brooklyn Center High School in Minnesota who is an immigrant from Liberia. “This will be huge for families here,” he added, noting that some students return to school in the fall looking like they’ve lost weight during the summer months.
Food insecurity a threat to nation’s youth
While students often lose some skills in math or reading, over the summer, food insecurity is a more pressing issue for growing children and adolescents. Food insecurity also causes stress which young people feel keenly as their caregivers wonder about the next meal or how to pay for the next trip to the grocery store.
The program will take place over both summer 2021 and summer 2022. Children under age six who receive free or reduced-rate lunch at school are automatically enrolled. Families will receive a P-EBT card, or a pandemic-related electronic benefits transfer card to use as part of SNAP, the supplemental nutrition assistance program for underserved families.
Over 30 million students from low-income backgrounds will benefit from the program, as part of the America Rescue Plan introduced by the Biden administration. Families will receive $375 for the summer, or about $7 per school day. This amount is nearly the same as school-year SNAP benefits for underserved populations.
“I’m relieved that this program will be extended so that my students’ needs will be met during this difficult time,” said Sara Ziegler, a teacher at a school in Michigan with a free and reduced lunch rate of over 50%. Additionally, “many underserved students live in food deserts as well, so this is a huge benefit for their families,” she added.