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Opinion | Lawmakers must act to combat child hunger with Summer EBT program

Gov. Ivey should champion this cause, urging lawmakers to embrace the Summer EBT for summer 2025. The time to act is now.

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In Alabama, a shadow looms over the summer months—not just the balmy heat but the specter of hunger affecting our youngest citizens. While the season should herald a time of freedom and play for children, for many in Alabama, it instead underscores a harsh reality: the absence of school meals means the gnawing presence of hunger. The solution, a ray of hope, lies within the Summer EBT program, an initiative designed to ensure that our children receive the nutrition they need when school is not in session. However, with Alabama standing as one of the few states yet to adopt this critical program for summer 2024, the clock is ticking, and the urgency to act is palpable.

At the core of this issue is the stark reality that one in four Alabama children faces food insecurity, a statistic that is not just a number but a reflection of the countless young lives grappling with uncertainty about their next meal. This is more than a matter of health; it’s a question of our moral compass and the value we place on our children’s well-being. How can we, as a society, stand by while our future leaders, innovators, and caregivers are left to face the long summer days with empty stomachs?

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office cited an oversight for the absence of the Summer EBT in the 2024 budget, but as we look ahead to 2025, the current omission of this program from the budget now awaiting approval is not just an oversight; it’s a glaring disregard for the health and well-being of our children. It is time for our lawmakers to step up and demonstrate that their commitment to the welfare of Alabama’s children extends beyond words to decisive action.

The benefits of the Summer EBT program are clear: it not only addresses hunger but also fosters healthier eating habits and injects vital economic activity into our communities. With every dollar invested in this program, we are nurturing the growth and development of our children while supporting local economies. It’s a win-win scenario that we cannot afford to overlook.

The mechanics of Summer EBT are straightforward yet impactful: eligible families receive pre-loaded cards to buy nutritious food, ensuring that children receive consistent, healthy meals even when school doors are closed. It’s not merely about alleviating hunger; it’s about fostering a healthier, more vibrant future generation.

With over 500,000 Alabama children at risk of summer hunger, the stakes couldn’t be higher. The federal government is ready to foot the bill for the benefits, asking states only to cover a fraction of the administrative costs. For a setup cost of around $15 million—an investment that promises significant returns—we have the opportunity to catalyze positive change, sparking economic activity while nourishing our children.

Gov. Ivey should champion this cause, urging lawmakers to embrace the Summer EBT for summer 2025. The time to act is now. The cost of inaction is far too high, measured in the lost potential of our children who deserve every opportunity to thrive, not just survive. Let’s ensure that no child in Alabama has to endure the pangs of hunger as they await the return of school meals. Let’s invest in their health, their education, and their future by supporting the Summer EBT program. Because it is self-evident that the true measure of our society’s health is how well we nourish and nurture our youngest members.

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Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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