The families of tens of thousands of school-age Lancaster County children are in line to receive some extra help putting food on the table this summer.
That’s because Pennsylvania will be taking part in the federal government’s “Summer EBT” program. “EBT” is short for “Electronic Benefits Transfer,” referring to the payment cards issued to participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Under the Summer EBT program, families whose children are eligible for the National School Lunch Program will receive an extra $40 per month for June, July and August to help make up for the meals they would be receiving if school were in session.
The departments of Education and Human Services officials confirmed Pennsylvania’s participation this week.
In general, families will be eligible for Summer EBT if they earn less than 185% of the federal poverty limit.
“This is such a great benefit for children and families,” said Cathy Carl, Youth Programs Manager for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.
It will work in tandem with another federally funded program, Carl said: the Summer Food Service Program, which provides resources to school districts and nonprofits to set up sites where children can come and eat for free.
Adding in Summer EBT means families will have more resources to provide food at home, too, further reducing food insecurity, Carl said.
In 2023, providers supported by Summer Food Service Program served more than 65,000 meals and snacks in Lancaster County. Even with Summer EBT as an additional resource, the Food Bank expects participation levels to be similar this summer: From year to year, “it’s pretty consistent,” Carl said.
For more information
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Click here (Pa. Dept. of Human Services) or here (Central PA Food Bank)
- National School Lunch Program: Click here.
- Summer Food Service Program:
- To find a site near you, call 1 (866) 3-HUNGRY (English); 1 (877) 8-HAMBRE (Spanish) or contact Central Pennsylvania Food Bank at (717) 564-1700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nonprofits interested in partnering with the Food Bank to open a Summer Food Service Program site are invited to complete this online application. For more information, call (717)724-3192 or email Donna Lattanzio at email@example.com.
Food insecurity has been at heightened levels across Pennsylvania since the end of enhanced assistance implemented during the pandemic, the Food Bank says.
According to the nonprofit’s Hunger Mapping Project, released last year, 11.9% of Lancaster County children experience low or very low food security. Children are 55% more likely than adults to be food insecure, the report said.
State officials said they will issue Summer EBT benefits automatically to families based on their children’s eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals. The benefits will be issued as a single $120 payout by Sept. 30, the Department of Human Services said.
In Lancaster County, just over 32,000 children were eligible for free school meals in 2022-23, and more than 1,400 were eligible for reduced price, according to state Department of Education data.
Statewide, an estimated 600,000 to 900,000 children will qualify.
The state anticipates being able to enroll almost all eligible families automatically. A “limited number” of families will need to submit applications to their local county assistance office, DHS said: Details of how to do so are being worked out and will be publicized in coming months.
Pennsylvania is one of 35 states, five territories and four Indian territories are taking part in Summer EBT, potentially benefiting nearly 21 million children, according to the Associated Press. Congress made the program permanent beginning this year after several years of piloting it.
The 15 states that aren’t participating cited several reasons, including bureaucratic hurdles and claims that the program is redundant. They will have another chance to join in 2025, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak told AP he hopes they do.
“No child in this country should go hungry,” he said.