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Alabama nonprofit lobbying for nutrition assistance after EBT program opposed for summer 2024

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Some Alabama households will be facing food insecurity in the coming months, as the state decided not to take part in a 2024 summer electronic benefit transfer (EBT) program. Alabama Arise, a statewide, member-led organization advancing public policies to improve the lives of Alabamians who are marginalized by poverty, is looking to make change ahead of next summer.

Summer EBT was offered to all states by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an effort to help provide grocery-buying benefits to low-income families with school-aged children when schools are closed for the summer. The department estimates more than 30 million children across America, including in Alabama, could benefit from Summer EBT.

Food insecurity is an official term from the USDA. It's when people don't have enough to eat and don't know where their next meal will come from. The USDA defines this as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life. Close to 750,000 Alabamians, including over 200,000 children, are dealing with this issue.

Alabama is the fifth poorest state in the nation, with 17% of adults and 23% of children (1 out of 4) facing food insecurity, or lack of regular access to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy life. That information comes from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). The department advises, for those with low or no income, rent or mortgage and medicine are usually covered first, leaving little for the food budget and other, more flexible expenses.

For some Alabama students, free and reduced school lunches means a grantee of meals. However, that assistance stops over the summer break, leaving children with lower access to food. In recent years, 94% of Alabama’s children who received free or reduced-price school meals during the school year did not have access to these meals over the summer, according to ADPH.

Alabama Arise is advocating for the state to help ease this through Summer EBT for 2025. According to the nonprofit, a $15 million appropriation for Summer EBT would reduce hunger by providing eligible Alabama children $40 per summer month for food.

The nonprofit estimates this program would require that initial appropriation yet will deliver a substantially higher return on investment, explaining that amount includes one-time setup costs, so it likely would decrease significantly in future years. Alabama Arise suggests the appropriation could come from either the Education Trust Fund or the General Fund.

The advocacy group stresses that providing funding for Summer EBT would ensure that hundreds of thousands of Alabama children don’t have to go hungry next summer.

Alabama Arise shares these key points for Summer EBT:

  • Summer EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) provides eligible children $40 per summer month ($120 total).
  • 1 in 4 Alabama children are food insecure, with a disproportionate amount coming from households of color.
  • 94% of Alabama children who receive free or reduced-price meals do not have access to them over the summer.
  • Summer EBT is a $15 million state investment in child nutrition, with a $1 for $1 federal match, that could spur around $100 million in economic activity annually across Alabama.
  • The Summer EBT program could reduce hunger and support healthier diets for more than half a million (545,000) Alabama children.

Lean more about Summer EBT for 2025 here.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
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