Call to action for Alabamians to advocate for summer food assistance program following state lawmakers’ refusal of funds | Alabama Public Radio

A statewide nonprofit is urging Alabamians to advocate for support for a federal program that provides summer food assistance to low-income families with school-age children.

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, also known as Summer EBT, aims to offer eligible families $120 in SNAP benefits to purchase food. Participating families will receive a pre-loaded debit card worth $40 per month for three months during the summer.

Governor Kay Ivey cited cost concerns as the reason for Alabama’s decision to opt out of the federal initiative this year. Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives tabled an amendment that aimed to allocate funds for the program.

State Representative Danny Garrett, who chairs the House budget-writing committee, expressed his desire to gain a better understanding of the state’s requirements before allocating funds.

Supporters from the nonprofit organization Alabama Arise emphasize the significance of the federal program, highlighting that many children rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition. They are urging lawmakers to allocate funding for the Summer EBT program in 2025 before the conclusion of this year’s legislative session.

LaTrell Clifford Wood, a hunger policy advocate at Alabama Arise, emphasized the profound impact on almost half a million Alabama children. Wood expressed concern that by choosing not to participate in the program for summer 2024, over half a million eligible children in Alabama will be deprived of essential summer meals.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), Alabama ranks as the fifth poorest state in the country. Shockingly, 17% of adults and 23% of children, which equates to one out of every four individuals, experience food insecurity. This means that they do not have regular access to sufficient nutritious food for a healthy and active lifestyle.

People who have low or no income often prioritize their expenses, with rent or mortgage and medicine being the top priorities. As a result, they have little left in their budget for food and other flexible expenses.

Arise has reported that Summer EBT has the potential to provide meals for more than half a million children in the state. According to the organization, the federal program would require an initial appropriation of $15 million, which they believe would be a worthwhile investment.

According to a fact sheet provided by the organization, the funding for the program could be sourced from either the Education Trust Fund or the General Fund. Additionally, it is expected that the cost of the program would decrease over time.

Clifford Wood, a representative from Alabama Arise, emphasizes the need for the legislature to prioritize the well-being of children. According to Wood, if there are sufficient funds available for corporate tax breaks, there should also be enough to ensure that children have access to food. He urges the legislature to take action and allocate the necessary resources before half a million children in Alabama go hungry by the summer of 2025.

Arise is urging residents of the Yellow Hammer State to support Summer EBT by reaching out to legislators and expressing their support for the program.

“We have now reached a critical juncture in the legislative process, as lawmakers are deliberating on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year of 2025,” explained Clifford Wood. He emphasized the importance of engaging with legislators and advocating for the necessary funding for essential programs that benefit our children. By actively reaching out to our elected representatives, we are ensuring that the voices of those who cannot partake in the voting process are heard.”

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