The Gospels invite us to observe Jesus’ interaction with children. In the Gospel of Mark we read, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child will enter it. Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Mk.10:15-16 (NLT). Furthermore, Jesus offers tough teaching as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,[a] you were doing it to me!” Matthew 25:34-40 (NLT)
Our children, regardless of where they live or their circumstances, are the least among us. One way that we can bless children like Jesus is to offer healthy food during the school summer break. Please read the letter below from EEN’s friends at the USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Bless children like Jesus by taking action to ensure there will be plentiful and healthy food available in your communities and neighborhoods this summer.
Letter from the director of the USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Samantha Joseph, to Faith-based Leaders
A healthier future for our country begins with our children. Children need consistent access to nutritious foods to be healthy now and throughout their lives. USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs such as WIC, SNAP, school meals, and summer meals build on and complement each other to meet nutritional needs from birth throughout childhood and beyond. More than 30 million children participate in school meal programs during the school year. However, when schools are closed, children lose access to these healthy meals and are at higher risk of food and nutrition insecurity. As a result, for many children, summer is the hungriest time of the year. While we and our state and local partners –often with strong support from faith-based organizations -- have worked to leverage our summer feeding program to tackle summer hunger, traditional in-person summer meal sites historically only reach 1 in 6 children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals during the school year. Fortunately, as a result of new bi-partisan legislation, we have two new powerful tools to ensure every child gets the nourishment they need when school is out of session, including: a permanent option that began this past summer to provide non-congregate summer meals to children in certain rural areas such as “grab and go” meals or meal delivery; and a permanent, nationwide program called Summer EBT that, starting Summer 2024, will allow States to provide to low-income households with eligible children food dollars that can be spent at grocery stores. Under this new program design, eligible children can combine Summer EBT benefits with either congregate or non-congregate meals. Our vision is that all States, Tribes, and territories will leverage the three tools we have—traditional congregate summer meals, non-congregate meals in certain rural communities, and Summer EBT—to ensure all children have the nutrition they need in the summer months.
Simply put, Summer EBT is an incredible opportunity to end childhood hunger during the summer. Under the Summer EBT option, families will receive $40 worth of food benefits per summer month on a pre-loaded EBT card for each eligible child. That amounts to a potential estimated $3.5 billion going into the pockets of low-income families with children. To ensure we maximize this historic opportunity, faith and community leaders can:
- Convene State and local faith-based leaders for critical discussions on how Summer EBT will advance in your community and how faith-based leaders can help ensure a successful rollout, for example, by supporting outreach.
- Encourage your congregations and communities to engage with Governors on the incredible opportunity that Summer EBT represents to respond to summer hunger. Governors can use their platforms, such as their State of the State addresses, their budget proposals, and convening power, to underscore their strong support for the new summer feeding options.
- Commit to supporting future outreach and marketing campaigns for the expanded summer meals Programs.
To learn more about our exciting new, expanded summer nutrition programs, please visit our website at https://www.fns.usda.gov/summer