August 15, 2022

This week, the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) released a new report, Pandemic EBT: Recommendations for a Permanent Nationwide Summer EBT Program, which used responses collected from a survey of state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program agencies about the summer 2021 Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) Program to identify and synthesize lessons learned from implementation to inform policy and best practices.

P-EBT was created in March 2020 to help fill the nutritional gap caused by school closures by providing families’ benefits on an EBT card to purchase food. The program was expanded in spring 2021 to provide summer benefits and serve young children throughout the course of the pandemic.

Summer P-EBT has been a critical resource for many families. One parent, when asked about her experience last summer, stated, “I was so very thankful for receiving the Summer P-EBT benefits; it meant so much to me to be able to take the burden off my shoulders of how I was going to feed my family for all the time they were off from school. I really would love to thank everyone who put this into motion. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!”

The report groups the lessons learned from the summer of 2021 into five areas: administrative funding, data collection, communications, dispute resolution, and staffing — from application to implementation. The report also outlines additional actions states could take to strengthen their P-EBT programs to better transition to a permanent nationwide Summer EBT Program, and includes a fact sheet for each state about its 2021 Summer P-EBT implementation.

P-EBT has positioned many states to implement successful summer EBT programs. Summer EBT was initially funded through the Agriculture Appropriations Act of fiscal year 2010 as part of a series of demonstration projects that aimed to identify ways to reduce food insecurity during summer vacation. Similar to P-EBT, evaluations have shown that summer EBT helps reduce food insecurity.

Currently, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act (H.R. 8450) is making its way through Congress. It would create a permanent nationwide Summer EBT Program. The report identifies important policy options that, if applied, would support a robust implementation, reduce the administrative burden on states and school districts, and support better access to benefits so that summer EBT can ease the financial burden on struggling families and keep hungry children fed during the summer months.