How a Community Team Plans to Help Families Affected by Summer EBT Loss

How a Community Team Plans to Help Families Affected by Summer EBT Loss

A Community Food Access Team in Marshall County, Iowa, is brainstorming ways to help families who will lose the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program this year. The program, which provides $40 per month for food to families with children, was discontinued by the state government in December 2023. The team, which consists of representatives from various organizations and agencies, is looking for alternative sources of food and funding to fill the gap.

The Summer EBT program was a federal initiative that was implemented in Iowa in 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program aimed to help low-income families with children who rely on free or reduced-price school meals during the academic year. The program provided $40 per month for food to each eligible child, which could be used at any authorized retailer.

The program was a lifeline for many families who faced food insecurity and financial hardship due to the pandemic. According to the Iowa Department of Human Services, the program served more than 200,000 children in the state, and distributed more than $50 million in benefits in 2020.

However, the program was not renewed by the state government in 2023, despite the ongoing need and the availability of federal funds. Governor Kim Reynolds decided to opt out of the program, citing administrative and technical challenges, and the availability of other food assistance programs.

The decision was met with criticism and disappointment by many advocates and families, who said the program was effective and essential. They said the program helped reduce hunger and improve nutrition among children, especially during the summer months, when school meals are not available. They also said the program helped stimulate the local economy and support the food retailers.

The loss of the program will have a significant impact on many families, who will have to cope with less food and less money. Some of the families who benefited from the program are not eligible for other food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Some of the families who are eligible for other programs may not receive enough benefits to cover their food needs.

The Role of the Community Food Access Team

The Community Food Access Team is a group of individuals and organizations that work together to address food insecurity and food access issues in Marshall County. The team was formed in 2017, and is led by the Marshall County Iowa State University Extension office. The team includes representatives from the Emergency Food Box, the Marshalltown Community School District, the Heart of Iowa Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Marshalltown Public Library, the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA, and other partners.

The team meets regularly to share information, resources, and best practices, and to coordinate and collaborate on various projects and initiatives. Some of the projects and initiatives that the team has worked on include:

  • Creating and maintaining a food resource guide, which lists the locations, hours, and contact information of the food pantries, meal sites, and other food assistance programs in the county.
  • Organizing and promoting food drives, food distributions, and food donations, to collect and distribute food to the people in need.
  • Supporting and expanding the food pantries within the school buildings, which provide food to the students and their families.
  • Educating and informing the public about food insecurity and food access issues, and the available resources and programs, through social media, newsletters, and events.

The team also monitors and responds to the changing needs and challenges of the community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased the demand and the complexity of the food service.

The Plan for the Summer EBT Loss

The team is aware of the summer EBT loss, and is planning to take actions to help the families who will be affected by it. The team is exploring various options and strategies, such as:

  • Increasing the awareness and the utilization of the summer meals program, which is offered by the Marshalltown Community School District, and provides free breakfast and lunch to any child under 18 years old, regardless of income or enrollment status. The team will help spread the word about the program, and encourage the families to take advantage of it.
  • Seeking and securing additional funding and resources, from local, state, or federal sources, to provide food or cash assistance to the families who will lose the summer EBT benefits. The team will research and apply for any grants, donations, or programs that may be available, and will distribute them to the families in need.
  • Partnering and collaborating with local churches, businesses, and organizations, to provide food or support to the families who will lose the summer EBT benefits. The team will reach out and network with potential partners, and will coordinate and facilitate any food or support services that they may offer.

The team hopes to implement these actions by the summer of 2024, and to continue them until the end of August, when the school year resumes. The team also hopes to monitor and evaluate the outcomes and the impacts of these actions, and to provide feedback and recommendations to the stakeholders and the community.