As of Friday, January 12, 2024, the Washington Post and The Hill reported that the 15 Republican-led states will not be participating in the Summer Food Service Program. This important service is a federally funded, state-administered program, made possible via the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This is a devastating development for children in dire need of nourishable daily meals. This is a critical life source for at-risk children living in low-income households who depend on this summer resource. Interestingly enough, states lose nothing by administering these free meals and snacks to children and teenagers, because the USDA reimburses program operators.

So, why is Louisiana pulling the plug on something so important? The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) is over the state food benefits. The Louisiana Illuminator, reached out to LDOE to find out. The Department spokesperson, Ted Beasley, responded to Illuminator with a written statement saying,

“LDOE considered it improper to commit Governor Landry and a new legislature to millions of dollars in increased spending toward a new government program.”

Beasley went on to say, “Additionally, LDOE determined that existing meal programs… would remain in effect during the summer of 2024. Further, LDOE secured confirmation from the USDA that Louisiana could still enter into the Summer EBT program beyond January 1.”

Here's the good news, Louisiana still has time to sign up! The ball is in Gov. Landry's court. Hopefully, he will reconsider. For now, other existing meal programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), SNAP for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and additional meals through the USDA’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO) are safe through the end of the year.

However, there is no confirmation that these programs will continue past the end of the year.

Food insecurity, or not having access to enough food to sustain a healthy life is not a Louisiana problem, it's a national problem. An estimated 21 million children count on this vital feeding program during the summer months in the U.S. This is why 35 states around the country have signed up for Summer Food Service benefits.

According to reports, families in participating states will get a $40 monthly stipend, per school-aged child living in the household. Some will receive as much as $120 per month to purchase groceries starting this summer. The funds will be automatically sent to the EBT card electronically each month.

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