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Veering From Other Republican-Led States, Tennessee Opts Into Summer Food Program For Kids

Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema / UnSplash

By Anita Wadhwani [Tennessee Lookout -CC BY-NC-ND 4.0] –

Tennessee will participate in a Federal program designed to give parents extra cash to buy food for their children during the summer months, veering from 15 other Republican-led states that have rejected the federal dollars.

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children, or Summer EBT, will provide $40 per month for each school aged kid living below the poverty line. The funds are loaded onto a debit card that may only be used to buy food. 

The program was launched during the pandemic to ensure kids who qualified for free or reduced-price in-school meals had access to nutritious meals while out of school. With bipartisan support, Congress opted to make the program permanent in 2022.

There are 644,000 Tennessee children who are eligible for Summer EBT – potentially drawing more than $77 million in funding that low-income Tennessee families can spend at the grocery store, according to data from advocates across the state who last month wrote a letter collectively urging Gov. Bill Lee and other state officials to opt into the funding.

Every dollar spent on Summer EBT generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in local economic activity — a total expected economic impact in Tennessee of up to $140 million in 2024, according to the December 20 letter to state officials from more than two dozen community organizations, including public school officials, food bank operators and child advocates.

Officials with the Tennessee Department of Human Services did not respond to a request for more details last week. Tennessee is among 35 states that met the Jan. 1 deadline to qualify for the summer food program, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

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