Pennsylvania Launches SUN Bucks Program to Combat Summer Hunger

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HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania officials announced a new initiative aimed at keeping children well-nourished during the summer months when school is out. The Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh and Department of Education Secretary Dr. Khalid N. Mumin recently introduced the SUN Bucks program, which provides families with financial assistance to purchase healthy meals.

What is SUN Bucks?

SUN Bucks is part of the nationwide Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (Summer EBT) program. It offers a one-time benefit similar to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), designed to help families buy nutritious food during the summer. The program targets households with children who receive free or reduced-price school meals during the academic year.

How Does It Work?

Families eligible for SUN Bucks will receive a one-time payment of $120 per child. This money can be used to purchase food during the summer when school meals are unavailable. Benefits will start being issued in mid-August and all payments for 2024 will be completed by the end of October.

“Summer is a time when many children do not have access to the free and reduced-price meals they get during the school year, and families might need a little extra help putting healthy meals on the table,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “The new SUN Bucks program will provide eligible households with critical dollars to help bridge the gap during the summer to ensure that Pennsylvania children are fed and thriving while school is closed.”

Who is Automatically Eligible?

Most children who qualify for SUN Bucks will be automatically enrolled and do not need to apply. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Families already receiving SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  • Children who qualify for Medicaid with the right income level for the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program.
  • Students already approved for free or reduced-price school meals.
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If a family already has an EBT card, the SUN Bucks benefits will be added to it. Those without an EBT card will receive a Summer EBT card via mail.

Application Process for Others

For families whose children are not automatically eligible but still believe they qualify, a paper application process is available. This includes families with children attending schools where every student gets free or reduced-price meals under the Community Eligibility Provision but do not meet other criteria for automatic eligibility.

Families can use the SUN Bucks Eligibility Navigator provided by the Shapiro Administration to determine if they need to apply. If required, applications can be submitted by mail or through a local County Assistance Office.

SUN Bucks Program Fights Summer Hunger

Summer breaks pose a significant challenge for families relying on school meal programs. Without these meals, many children face food insecurity. The SUN Bucks program aims to fill this gap, ensuring that children do not go hungry when school is out.

Food insecurity affects a child’s overall well-being, including their ability to learn and grow. By providing financial assistance for nutritious meals, the SUN Bucks program supports the health and development of Pennsylvania’s children. This initiative also helps reduce the financial burden on families during a time when expenses can be particularly high.

Fighting Summer Hunger & Boosting Public Health

The introduction of SUN Bucks could serve as a model for other states looking to address summer hunger. By ensuring children have access to healthy meals year-round, Pennsylvania is taking a significant step towards improving public health and educational outcomes.

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The launch of the SUN Bucks program is a proactive measure to combat food insecurity among children during the summer months. With applications now open, Pennsylvania families are encouraged to check their eligibility and apply if needed. This vital support ensures that more children across the state will have access to the nutritious food they need to thrive, even when school is not in session.

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