Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023
Overview: The 2023 omnibus spending bill allocates $40 million to establish a permanent summer EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) program for families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches and makes summer meals programs more accessible in rural areas.
Location: United States
Population: 26 million children were eligible for free and reduced-price lunches based on household income (2019-2020 data)
Food policy category: Food insecurity
Program goals: To ensure healthy food access for children during the summer months.
How it works: The 2023 omnibus bill includes two provisions that will increase food access for food-insecure children during the summer months.
- Families with children eligible for free or reduced-price lunch will receive a $40 grocery benefit per child per month when school is out for the summer. Eligible children will be automatically enrolled in the program.
- Summer meal programs in rural areas will be able to provide children with up to 10 meals at a time to eat at home, rather than their having to consume the meals at a specified time and place. These programs can offer meals to be delivered to the child’s home, or the family can pick up the meals from a designated location.
To fund these programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Emergency Allotments – the extra SNAP benefits that were given to members during the COVID-19 pandemic – have been cut and will end in February 2023.
Progress to date: The omnibus spending bill was signed into law on December 29, 2022.
Why it is important: Nine million children in America are food-insecure, and when children do not have access to healthy foods at home, they often rely on school meals to get the nutrition they need. During the summer, when schools are not open, hungry students must turn to a free summer meals program.
However, according to No Kid Hungry, 6 out of 7 eligible children are currently not able to access these summer programs, which operate under a “congregate” model, meaning that the children must meet at a specific time and place to eat their meals together. Working parents may not be able to take their children to the designated meeting place, bus service is not available in the summer, and weather extremes often force sites to close.
The provisions of the 2023 omnibus bill will ensure that food-insecure families have the money to buy food for their children during the summer, and summer meal programs in rural areas will no longer have to operate under the congregate model.
Program/Policy initiated: The program will start in the summer of 2024.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: In June 2022, President Biden signed the Keep Kids Fed Act, which provided flexibility for 2022 summer meals programs and increased reimbursement rates for school meals in order to ensure that children would continue receiving meals despite increases in food costs for the schools.
Evaluation: While formal evaluation has not yet been conducted, Lisa Davis, Senior Vice President of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, says that similar policies implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic were successful in reducing child hunger during that time. However, the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is concerned about the negative impact the SNAP cuts will have on other food-insecure Americans, particularly the elderly.
- End of Nationwide Federal Free Lunch Program Has Some States Scrambling (NPR)
- Find Meals for Kids When Schools are Closed (USDA Food and Nutrition Service)
- Permanent Summer Grocery Benefits Are a Big Win for Children in Low-Income Families, Despite Disappointing Tradeoffs (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
- Serving Summer Meals During the COVID‐19 Pandemic: A Case Study of 2 Summer Food Service Program Sponsors in Maryland (Journal of School Health)
- Summer Meals (No Kid Hungry)
- Timing is Everything for Students Needing Summer Food Support (Urban Institute)
- Child Nutrition Programs Income Eligibility Guidelines (2022-2023) (USDA Food and Nutrition Service)
- Congress Redirects Emergency Snap Benefits to Fund Summer Meals for School Kids (Food Navigator-USA)
- Congress Spending Package Addresses Hunger, for Better and Worse (Just Harvest)
- Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (House Committee on Appropriations)
- Feeding America Statement on House and Senate Passage of Transformative Child Nutrition Provisions in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Spending Bill (Feeding America)
- Here’s What’s in the $1.7 Trillion Federal Spending Law (CNN)
- Hunger and Food Insecurity (Feeding America)
- Number and Percentage of Public School Students Eligible for Free or Reduced-Price Lunch, by State: Selected Years, 2000-01 Through 2019-20 (National Center for Education Statistics)
- Offset in Omnibus Would Cut SNAP and Hasten Hunger Cliff for Millions (Food Research and Action Center)
- Omnibus Bill Includes Two Major Provisions That Would Help Keep Children Fed Over the Summer (NBC News)
- President Signs the Keep Kids Fed Act (United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry)
- Spending Bill Funds Kids’ Summer Meals by Cutting Emergency Food Stamps (The Washington Post)
- Statement: Share Our Strength’s Lisa Davis on the Omnibus Bill and its Role in Ending Child Hunger (No Kid Hungry)