Federal ‘Summer EBT’ program rolls out in NYS for school-aged children, gets backing of Queens assemblymember

The Summer EBT program will provide eligible families with additional funds during the summer months, when school-aged children may not receive free meals.
Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

For some school-aged children, the end of the school year also marks the end of regular free meals, which can heighten existing food insecurities. 

Luckily for students across the five boroughs, the city’s free Summer Meals Program provides free breakfast and lunch distributed at schools, libraries and pools for anyone 18 years of age or younger.

However, there is an additional food assistance program this year. A new federal program—Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), also known as Sun Bucks—has been launched to give New Yorkers more options for food assistance. 

Most eligible children will automatically qualify for the federal program rolled out in New York State this year. In order to qualify, participants must be part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or have a household income at or below the requirement for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). 

Queens Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, who represents neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst, is encouraging all eligible New Yorkers who are not automatically enrolled in the program to apply. 

In December 2023, she penned a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her to sign on to the federal program, which she said could benefit 2 million students in the state. In the letter, she noted that a disruption in nutritional intake at the end of the school year could lead to poorer educational outcomes when school returns. 

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Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas (QNS file photo)

“Food insecurity is on the rise in New York and programs like Summer EBT can help us in addressing this crisis by bringing necessary resources to our communities. The truth is that the price of food has gone up and more New Yorkers are going hungry. We can and must do more,” said González-Rojas in a statement this week.

Families that automatically qualify will receive food cards in the mail over the summer. The Sun Bucks, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will amount to $40 per month in additional federal grocery benefits per child. 

She also praised programs such as Hunger Free America – a national program based in NYC that works to address food insecurity through direct economic benefits to allow for self-sufficiency. 

“Child hunger soars during the summer when traditional school meals are unavailable,” said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. “The new Summer EBT program, combined with other federal nutrition programs, will help ensure children’s access to healthy food while school is out.”

He notes that one in seven children across the state lives in a household that struggles with hunger. 

The application, along with more information about eligibility, can be found through the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Summer EBT food benefits will remain available for 122 days after being issued, and will expire if unused.