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Georgia will use taxpayers’ money to feed million students over the summer after refusing nearly $140 million from federal government

Georgia – Governor Brian Kemp’s team has confirmed that Georgia won’t be joining a new national program, funded by the federal government, meant to help reduce child hunger during summer.

By choosing not to be part of this, Georgia is turning down a huge amount of federal money that was supposed to help families with low income.

This choice comes at a time when the USDA is starting the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) for the summer of 2024. This program, as explained by the USDA, is meant to add to other summer food programs, SNAP, and WIC. It works by giving families cards loaded with money to buy food. Kids who usually get free or cheaper lunches at school would get $120 for food over the summer, which is about $40 each month.

While over 30 states have told the USDA they’ll join this program, Georgia has decided not to. Instead, Georgia will continue using state-run programs funded by Georgia taxpayers.

This decision is made at a time when about 64% of students in Georgia’s public schools are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch. This suggests that over a million kids in the state could have benefited from the USDA’s offer. The Food Research & Action Center calculates that this could have meant more than $138 million in help for Georgia families during summer, a critical period for kids who rely on school meals.

Georgia Governor’s office says the state makes sure children have healthy meals all year

Garrison Douglas, a spokesperson for the governor, communicated via email to 11 Alive, emphasizing the importance of ensuring that Georgia’s children have healthy meals all year, especially during summer break. Douglas pointed out that Georgia already has effective programs, like the GaDOE’s Seamless Summer Option, which provided many breakfasts and lunches statewide last year.

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He critiqued the federal EBT program for lacking in nutritional standards and long-term viability and not aligning with the goal of enhancing children’s health and wellness. As a result, Georgia, along with some neighboring states, chose not to join the EBT program. Instead, they’re focusing on established, successful local programs that meet the state’s specific needs by providing the necessary nutrition and support to families and children.

Georgia runs similar state and federally funded programs

The Governor’s Office mentioned that Georgia already has several programs to help students during summer. These include Seamless Summer and Happy Helpings, with the former run by the Georgia Department of Education and the latter by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

Georgia will use taxpayers’ money to feed million students over the summer after refusing nearly $140 million from federal government

To join the Summer EBT program, the state would need to pay about 50% of the costs, around $4.5 million a year. However, both Seamless Summer and Happy Helpings are already federally funded summer programs. The Governor’s Office didn’t respond to extra questions about how much these programs cost the state to run, or if the governor thought about using part of Georgia’s $11 billion surplus to fund the Summer EBT program.

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The deadline for states to join the Summer EBT program for summer 2024 was January 1. Even though Georgia missed this deadline, there’s hope that state leaders might consider this program in the future.

Gideon Blackwell



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