Arleen Ramos-Szatmary, the coordinator of School Nutrition Programs at the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, recently sent a letter to participants in the national school lunch and school breakfast programs with additional details on a new program that seeks to address food insecurity.

School Board Notes previously reported on the initial details she provided on the program in an earlier letter.

In December 2022, Congress created a new, permanent, nationwide program authorized as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, for states and certain Indian Tribal Organizations to provide food dollars to low-income families with school-aged children over the summer months. The program, officially called Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer, or Summer EBT, aims to reduce summer childhood hunger by providing families with a grocery benefit to feed their children while on summer break.

Beginning in summer 2024, all states and territories can participate in Summer EBT, which will provide families with children who are eligible for federal free or federal reduced price school meals with $40 per child per month to cover the three summer months of June, July and August when school is not in session. New Jersey will be issuing the Summer EBT benefit as a single $120 allotment per eligible child. Families will receive physical EBT cards, like those used for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which they can then use to purchase nutritious food.

New Jersey is pending final approval by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to operate the program, with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture designated as the lead agency for Summer EBT. The NJDA Division of Food and Nutrition is working in collaboration with the Department of Human Services, the Department of Education and the Office of the Food Security Advocate on this initiative.

Students must be individually certified as eligible for the program, including those who attend schools that provide free meals to all students through the community eligibility provision. Students must also meet federal free and federal reduced price income eligibility thresholds.

Read Ramos-Szatmary’s latest letter for more complete information, including how children can establish eligibility for the program and eligibility flowcharts and instructions for school districts on providing accurate student eligibility information.