Meeting Needs of Hungry Kids in the Most Responsible Way
By Governor Jim Pillen
January 5, 2024
When COVID-19 hit, it made sense and it was necessary, to identify a way to feed kids in need that didn’t require person-to-person interaction. The federally funded Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) was born from that era. It has now morphed into the Summer EBT program – one that front loads money onto cards for the purchase of $40 of groceries per child per month, capping at $120 per recipient.
Addressing food insecurity is important and necessary, but the S-EBT program is not necessary and it is not adequate to meeting the needs of children. I would be the first to admit that for a long time, I had blinders to the struggles that confront our communities – urban and rural. Handing out money is not enough to meet kid’s needs. They need much more.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a federal program that the state administers, which also provides no-cost food to kids. Unlike S-EBT, this program feeds kids in-person at a centralized location where they are guaranteed nutritious meals and snacks. In 2023, we had 245 such sites around the state operating in schools, churches, day camps and other locations, serving an estimated 20,000 kids.
The personal touchpoint of this program can’t be overlooked. Nebraska providers are trained to ensure that food options adhere to USDA nutrition guidelines. Kids are eating good meals, even when those meals are picked up or provided by delivery. Programs are located where education or enrichment activities take place. There is an opportunity for socialization with peers and on-site supervision and personal contact with adults who can spot signs in kids who have more needs than a meal. Sites usually have links to resources designed to support children and their families, as they hopefully, work their way out of food insecurity.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is another federal program administered by the state that provides food benefits to low-income families. In fiscal year (FY) 2023, 156,399 Nebraskans received SNAP benefits, at a cost of nearly $28 million a month. In addition to purchasing food, users have access to nutrition education and employment and training services.
Nebraska is committed to helping kids and families in need. Our programs are focused on more than simply providing food. They offer a hand up, not a handout.