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Mississippi Rejects Summer Food Assistance Program For Children

Nearly 21 million children in the U.S. and its territories are expected to receive food benefits this summer through a newly permanent federal program, but Mississippi will not be among them after the State rejected the funds. It is not clear whether the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians will participate.

The United States Department of Agriculture announced the program on Wednesday.

Thirty-five states, all five U.S. territories and four tribes opted into the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer program, or Summer EBT, which the government says is meant to supplement existing programs during the summer that have had a more limited reach.

“No child in this country should go hungry,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview with The Associated Press. “They certainly shouldn’t go hungry because they lose access to nutritious school meals during the summer months.”

In December 2022, Congress made Summer EBT permanent starting in 2024 after the USDA had tested it for several years. The states that chose not to opt in for this summer will have a chance to join for summer 2025, the USDA said.

Who is eligible for Summer EBT?

Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches (that is, families who are at or under 185% of the federal poverty line) will be eligible for Summer EBT, which will cover about 70% of the eligible population in its first year.

In an October report, the USDA said an estimated 17 million households in the U.S. reported problems finding enough food in 2022. That was up from 13.5 million in 2021, when there was more pandemic-era federal food aid.

How much do families get?

Eligible families will receive $40 per month per child during the summer — a total of $120 per child. The money will be loaded on an EBT card, which can be used at stores that also take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The USDA estimates it will provide a total of $2.5 billion in grocery benefits in 2024 through the Summer EBT program.

Who opted in?

The Cherokee Nation is one of the four tribes

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