GOP states reject USDA’s summer food aid for children

USDA's summer food aid meets political resistance, risking nutrition for over a million children.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement of the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program, aimed at providing summer food aid for kids, has been met with mixed reactions across the United States. While children’s rights and anti-hunger advocates celebrated the initiative, more than a dozen Republican state leaders have opposed the assistance.

The USDA revealed that its Summer EBT program is set to launch this year, targeting to feed 21 million children in 35 states. The program is designed to aid low-income parents by providing benefits to purchase food for their kids during summer, addressing a crucial period of food insecurity.

Organizations like Feeding Indiana’s Hungry lauded the program as a “game-changer in combating summer hunger.” No Kid Hungry New York expressed similar sentiments, highlighting Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to accept approximately $200 million to feed 2 million vulnerable children in New York as a historic step to reduce hunger.

In contrast, advocacy groups in 15 states led by Republican governors have expressed disappointment and outrage over their leaders’ decision to reject the food aid. The refusal by these states to participate in the program has raised concerns about the welfare of children who rely on school meals during the academic year.

Chris Bernard of Hunger Free Oklahoma, speaking to The Washington Post, estimated that 300,000 children in Oklahoma would lose access to free meals with the end of the school year. Bernard emphasized the effectiveness of food aid in reducing child poverty and hunger and improving academic performance, underscoring the potential negative impact of the state’s decision.

The brief filed by the lawmakers argues that the Willow Project contravenes environmental protection provisions in the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act (NPRPA) and sidelines the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). They assert that the project’s advancement ignores the pressing need to reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources, which is central to modern U.S. policy.

In states like Nebraska, existing summer nutrition programs are cited as the rationale for not participating in the Summer EBT program. However, in Oklahoma, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw tribes have stepped in to provide $50 million to low-income households, covering over 30 counties.

Passed as part of a 2022 legislative package, the Summer EBT program represents a significant advancement in efforts to combat child hunger during the summer months. Katie Bergh, a senior policy analyst, emphasized the program’s effectiveness, stating, “Summer EBT is an effective model that reduces food insecurity and improves nutrition.”

The refusal of the Summer EBT program by states like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Wyoming, all of which have also declined Medicaid expansion, underscores a broader political context affecting low-income families’ access to healthcare and nutrition.

The USDA’s initiative to provide summer food aid to children has highlighted a divide in state responses, reflecting varying political stances on federal aid programs. As the debate over child nutrition and federal assistance continues, the impact on millions of American children remains a critical concern.

In closing, Ife Finch Floyd, director of economic justice for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, commented on the decision’s impact, stating, “This will leave 1,156,000 children without the Summer EBT, a vital source of nutrition during school vacations.”


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