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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: May 20, 2016


NEW CASTLE (May 20, 2016) - The Department of Health and Social Services' Summer EBT Program for children will expand this year to serve 25,000 students across the state as a way to support families in ensuring that their children have dependable access to food during the summer months.

The Summer EBT Program helps families buy healthy food during the summer for children who currently receive free or reduced-price meals at school. The food benefits are loaded on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card for use during summer months when free or reduced price meals through the school are not available. This is the fourth year that Delaware has been awarded a federal grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to operate the program. This year's grant is for $2.1 million.

Collaborating with the Delaware Department of Education, this initiative will involve students in school districts from across the state in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. In 2012, the first year of the summer program, about 4,000 students in the Red Clay, Colonial, Christina and Appoquinimink school districts were served. The program has expanded each year since then. Families are being sent consent forms so their children can be enrolled in the program. Letters to parents, which include the consent forms, have been sent. To be eligible to participate, children already must receive free or reduced-price meals through their school districts.

"We are grateful to be able to expand the Summer EBT Program this year to include children from every school district," Gov. Jack Markell said. "Through this program, we can reach more students who otherwise might not get enough to eat during the summer months. This is a great way to ensure that students have continued access to healthy food year-round, and that they will be focused and ready to learn when school begins again in the fall."

In Delaware, more than 76,000 children rely on school nutrition programs as their primary source of healthy meals. About 14.8 percent of Delaware's children are classified as food insecure, which means they don't always know where they will find their next meal. These problems are intensified when schools let out for the summer. Families who are chosen for the project will receive $30 per month for each school-age child in the home. Electronic transfer benefits cards, which will be sent to parents, will be activated June 6 and are valid through Aug. 24. Users can buy non-cooked foods from merchants who accept food benefits. The cards cannot be used at fast-food stores or restaurants.

"We are pleased that the program has gone so well in previous years and glad we are expanding the Summer EBT Program across the state," DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf said. "For children who do not get enough to eat, the problems can be heart-breaking and, unfortunately, life-altering. Joining with the Department of Education, we will be able to provide much-needed meals to more families to bridge the summer gap. It puts us another step closer toward eradicating childhood hunger."

Delaware joins many other states in participating in this initiative. "Hunger doesn't stop when school lets out in the summer, and this pilot program will help bridge the gap that children often face in getting healthy food in their diet over break," said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. "Good nutrition throughout the summer will help prepare a child for school to begin again come fall, and I'm proud Delaware was chosen once again for this program."

"Access to good nutrition is a critical part of a child's educational and physical development," Sen. Chris Coons said. "I am pleased the Summer EBT Program has continued to expand and will help even more children receive the nutrients they need during the summer months. I thank the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services and Delaware Department of Education and the support of the USDA for their continued work to ensure that all children across our state are able to live a happy and healthy life."

"I'm very happy that Delaware was once again chosen for the Summer EBT Program. It fills a critical need for our children," Congressman John Carney said. "Schools have really stepped up to ensure their students eat a balanced, healthy diet. But, when schools break for the summer, that need doesn't go away. The Summer EBT program will once again ensure that thousands of Delaware children have access to the nutritious food they need over the summer. It helps them form good lifelong habits, and prepares them to return to school in the fall ready to learn."

USDA studies have found that insufficient nutrition may hinder the ability of children to function normally. Potential problems include: increased risk for chronic health conditions such as anemia and asthma; increased risk for being hospitalized; more frequent instances of oral health problems; poorer physical quality of life, which may prevent them from fully engaging in daily activities; greater risk of truancy and school tardiness during the school year; or such behavior problems as fighting, hyperactivity, aggression, anxiety, mood swings, and bullying.

For more information about the Summer EBT Program for Children, go to www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dss/index.html, or contact Ruth Campbell with the Division of Social Services at (302) 424-7287.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.