During the school year, many children receive meals through the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). When summer begins, these children lose access to healthy meals and their nutritional needs are not met when the schools close. Over the past four years, ARCHS has participated in a national demonstration pilot program to address this issue.
Since 2012, ARCHS' partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State of Missouri has provided 14,472 area children in the Saint Louis Public Schools District access to a food benefits program during the summer, while making a $1.96 million impact on the local economy, through Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (SEBTC). On average, families participating in the ARCHS' program used 92% of the food benefits funding available to them in order to provide healthy meals for their children.
This summer, ARCHS' SEBTC pilot program will assist more than 9,000 area students through an existing partnership with the Saint Louis Public Schools and a new partnership with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis to serve children living in Ferguson.
SEBTC is a benefit designated for children who attend pre-k through 12th grade and also receive free or reduced-price school meals in the SBP/NSLP during the school year. The households chosen through ARCHS' pilot program receive extra funding per month per child for the summer months and prorated amounts for the partial months when school ends in the spring and resumes at the end of summer.
Lessons learned from Missouri's SEBTC pilot program continue to inform decisions at the federal level about how to best address childhood hunger during the summer months when school meals are not available. In January 2016,President Obama announced that his FY2017 budget will invest $12 billion over ten years to reduce child hunger during the summer through a permanent SEBTC program to provide supplemental food benefits during the summer months for all families with children eligible for free and reduced price school meals.
During the academic year, school meals help ensure consistent and adequate access to nutritious food for the nearly 22 million low-income children who receive free and reduced price school meals. However, only a fraction of these children receive free and reduced price meals when school is out of session.
As a result, low-income children are at higher risk of food insecurity and poor nutrition during the summer. SEBTC, which provides benefits on an electronic debit card that can be used for food benefits, fills the food budget gap in the summer. Rigorous evaluations of USDA pilots of SEBTC programs have found that they can significantly reducefood insecurity among children and improve their nutrition.
In January 2016, representatives from ARCHS participated in A White House Conversation on Child Hunger in America and provided an updated on Missouri's successful SEBTC pilot program.
The Missouri SEBTC pilot program is a collaboration of the USDA, State of Missouri (Missouri Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education; Health and Senior Services; Social Services), ARCHS, Local Investment Commission (LINC), Mississippi County Partnership, Shannon County, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and designated school districts.
The SEBTC pilot program is not open to the general public. However, there are many summer meals resources available to St. Louis area families.