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Local News

WI first state approved for kids’ summer meal program

Credit: iStock

Mike Moen, Producer

Wisconsin children from low-income families are now on track to get nutritious foods over the summer.

Federal officials have approved the Badger State’s plan to join a new program that includes dozens of other states. Gov. Tony Evers has said Wisconsin is the first state to get the green light for the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer program, and 36 other states are poised to launch this summer. Eligible households will receive pre-loaded debit cards that families can use to buy groceries.

Shelly Fortner, executive director of The Hunger Task Force of La Crosse applauded the move, noting that half of kids in the local school district already qualify for free and reduced-price lunches during school.

“We’ve got families with low incomes – most of them working, by the way – but just not able to put that extra meal on the table for kids who are home during the summer months,” she said.

This new permanent program, authorized by Congress, is similar to the enhanced meal access the federal government provided during the pandemic. Throughout Wisconsin, there are separate meal sites for these kids when school isn’t in session, but supporters of the new effort say it provides more flexibility, especially for households with limited transportation options.

State officials have pointed out that most families already enrolled in the National School Lunch Program will automatically receive the summer benefits.

Fortner said meal access aids kids in their learning. For the summer, she said, the additional access will keep them active.

“We’ve had a lot of information about sedentary activities like video games and TV and all of that,” he said, “but our kids are now getting outdoors more, and they need to have that energy to be able to keep that up.”

She added that this should help foster healthy lifelong habits for kids and prevent them from starting the next school year feeling sluggish. For each eligible child, the state will provide a one-time summer benefit of $120. It’s anticipated the money will be available in late June.

This story is republished from Public News Service under a Creative Commons license. Read the original story.