Launching Soon: Summer Grocery Program to Feed Washington Kids

During the approach of summer, multitudes of children in the state of Washington face a three-month period devoid of the free meals typically provided by their schools.
“It is a significant gap that impacts the learning process,” noted Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington.
A new federal initiative set to commence this summer aims to aid lower-income families who rely on the free breakfasts and lunches provided by schools.
The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children, a permanent version of a program that assisted families during the pandemic, was federally approved in 2022 thanks to advocacy from Murray and will launch in Washington this summer with additional funding from the state Legislature.
This program will issue families a preloaded $120 card redeemable at grocery stores and farmers markets between mid-June and late August, with distributions varying for each child, as specified by state officials.
In order to qualify, children from families at or below 185% of the federal poverty line, which equals $57,720 annually for a family of four, can participate. The state projects that approximately 550,000 children in Washington will meet the eligibility criteria.
While the primary funding source is the federal government, the state Legislature allocated $12 million over a two-year period to support a portion of the program during the current legislative session. The program, to be managed by the Department of Social and Health Services and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, received federal approval last week.
Children already receiving Basic Food Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits, or free or reduced school lunches are automatically eligible for this program and will not need to reapply, explained Norah West, spokesperson for the Department of Social and Health Services.
Families eligible for the program but not enrolled in free or reduced school meals are encouraged to apply before the school year concludes if they wish to access the summer program.
Even those families that do not meet the criteria for other programs can apply for the summer assistance program, with application details set to be announced soon.
For families that qualify, benefits will be distributed within seven to ten days of approval, with benefits expiring 122 days after issuance.
The conversation around ensuring children have access to adequate nutrition is ongoing among lawmakers, with efforts made in recent years at the state level to provide free school meals for all children proving unsuccessful.
Senator Murray continues to advocate at the federal level, highlighting the broader impact of nutrition on children’s academic performance and overall well-being.
“The pressure on families is immense,” remarked Murray in an interview with the Standard in February. “It seems imperative that in the United States of America, this is a concern our families should not have to contend with.”

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