The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (Summer EBT) is a new federal nutrition program that provides grocery benefits during the summer months to families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (Summer EBT) is a new federal nutrition program that provides grocery benefits during the summer months to families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. Summer EBT was authorized by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 as a permanent, nationwide program beginning in summer 2024. Estimates show 30 million children are eligible for Summer EBT in the United States.
Summer EBT benefits are $120 per child per summer, though benefits are higher in Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. territories. The benefit level will be adjusted annually for inflation after 2024. Benefits are typically provided on a debit-style EBT card to purchase food at stores, farmers markets, and online.
Permanent Summer EBT builds off of the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children (SEBTC) demonstration pilots that began in 2011 and Pandemic EBT that provided benefits to eligible children to replace school meals when schools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The SEBTC pilots reduced very-low food insecurity for participating children by a third and increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Summer EBT and summer meals work together to address the summer hunger gap. Children can participate in both Summer EBT and summer meals, providing families with more food resources during the summer months.
For More Information
For additional details on the history of Summer EBT, key program rules, and links to USDA guidance and resources, see the Summer EBT section of our Summer & Afterschool Meals Policy page.
Download the Summer EBT Playbook!
Code for America and No Kid Hungry developed the Summer EBT Playbook as an actionable, technical resource for agencies who are engaged in Summer EBT implementation for 2024 and beyond. The playbook focuses on the key data and technology systems needed to deliver a human-centered Summer EBT program.
Summer EBT application, certification, customer service, and evaluation processes are deeply data-centric. Tailoring data and technology best practices for the context of your state/territory/Indian tribal organization (ITO) will allow for implementation that both serves households efficiently and reduces administrative burden.
Data sharing agreements (DSAs) or memoranda of understanding (MOUs) will need to be in place among state/territory/ITO government, local education agencies (LEAs), and/or school food authorities (SFAs) for data elements required for Summer EBT eligibility determination. DSAs or MOUs may already be in place from Pandemic EBT implementation and may need amendments or addenda to allow for the implementation of Summer EBT.
Consider including in your data sharing elements that allow for evaluation of the reach and utility of Summer EBT, for the purpose of improving implementation over time. For example: do uptake and utilization of Summer EBT vary across:
- Races and ethnicities?
- Rural and urban areas?
- Household sizes?
Application and Certification
For streamlined certification, data from programs used for direct certification or categorical eligibility of free and reduced-price (FRP) meals will need to be combined with data from FRP applications (in non-special provision schools) or alternative income forms (in special provision schools) and then deduplicated to identify the children who can receive Summer EBT benefits without an application. More information about data aggregation best practices can be found here.
Households with school-aged children enrolled in schools participating in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) or National School Lunch Program (NSLP) who are not streamline-certified must apply for Summer EBT. Applications should be available in multiple languages and formats to ensure that all children who are eligible for benefits receive benefits.
Early communication with households will be critical to the success of Summer EBT. In addition to letting households know that the Summer EBT program is being implemented in their state, households also need to know whether they will be receiving benefits automatically or if they will need to apply to receive benefits. Communication about who needs to apply is particularly critical in special provision schools.
Information about program administration should be shared widely among all Summer EBT collaborators. This includes sharing information among state agencies, local education agencies (LEAs), school food authorities (SFAs), school administrators, and community organizations. A web portal with up-to-date information can be helpful in ensuring that all collaborators have access to the right information at the right time.
Updating address information will be important for ensuring benefits are delivered to the correct household. Address information may be different in the many databases where student and child information is stored as households move from one place to another, opt to use separate home and mailing addresses, send mail to a post office (PO) box, etc.
Households should be able to update their addresses as needed for benefit delivery, and a process should be in place to propagate updated address information to other student/child databases as needed.
Tracking customer support issues can be an excellent data source for identifying systems-level issues with Summer EBT. Customer support logs should be reviewed regularly.
Check out USDA's Summer EBT Outreach Toolkit
FNS is developing a variety of resources to help states, territories, tribes and their partners get the word out about what’s new with USDA’s summer nutrition programs for kids, including the new Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer Program.
Outreach and communications to families with children eligible for Summer EBT is critical. As a new program, families will be learning about Summer EBT for the first time in 2024 and simple, human-centered communications will ensure eligible families know the information they need to access and participate in the program.
Clear and effective communication is especially important for Summer EBT because families with eligible children can receive Summer EBT in different ways. Many families will automatically receive Summer EBT benefits with an EBT card mailed to them, while others who are eligible will need to apply.
The United States Department of Agriculture has a Summer EBT outreach toolkit for state agencies and community partners to use.
No Kid Hungry is also developing communication and outreach materials and will share those here when ready.