Federal Program to Provide Eligible Students with $120 for Grocery Purchases During Summer

During the summer, students who depend on free or reduced school meals may face food insecurity, and a federal initiative aims to assist these families.

The Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (S-EBT), known as SUN Bucks, is a novel grocery subsidy program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allocates $120 per qualified student to purchase groceries over the summer.

Ohio is among over 30 states participating in the SUN Bucks program.

Brigette Hires, the director of nutrition at the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce stated, “Many Ohio children depend on school meals for breakfast and lunch, and it can be challenging for families to provide meals during the summer. The Summer EBT program serves as an additional safety net for households, ensuring access to nutritious meals.”

It is estimated that the SUN Bucks program will benefit around 840,000 Ohio students during the summer, marking the first permanent federal nutrition program introduced in over half a century.

“This program offers families direct resources to choose the best foods for their well-being,” remarked Hope Lane-Gavin, the director of nutrition policy and programs at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks.

Students are expected to receive a one-time payment of $120 in SUN Bucks by July 31, either added to their existing Ohio Direction Cards or sent on a new card to eligible recipients.

Hires mentioned, “The slight delay in distribution for this summer’s benefits is due to the implementation of a new program, involving various setup processes. Moving forward, we aim to distribute benefits closer to the summer’s commencement.”

If eligible families do not receive the Summer EBT benefits by July 31, they are advised to reach out to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services at 1-866-244-0071.

Qualified students eligible for SUN Bucks can also avail themselves of other nutrition services like summer meal sites or local food assistance programs.

Hires emphasized, “These programs are designed to complement each other, aiding households in providing nutritious meals for their children.”

The SUN Bucks program empowers families to select their preferred food items, catering to various dietary preferences, cultural needs, allergies, and finicky eaters.

Lane-Gavin highlighted, “Children often have specific food preferences. Acknowledging this helps in ensuring they receive adequate nutrition.”

Who Qualifies for SUN Bucks?

Many Ohio families will be automatically enrolled in the program, while others must submit an application via sebt.ohio.gov.

Eligible children falling under these criteria will be automatically enrolled for SUN Bucks without the need for an application:

  • Children whose families receive SNAP or Ohio Works First benefits.
  • Children on Medicaid who met the free and reduced-price lunch criteria in the prior school year.
  • Children approved for free or reduced-price school meals through NSLP in the previous academic year.

These children may be eligible but will have to apply for the benefit:

  • Migrant children.
  • Children experiencing homelessness.
  • Children from families earning less than 185% of the federal poverty line, equating to $4,810 per month for a family of four.
  • Children receiving free or reduced-price school meals without completing an NSLP application.

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