Approximately 150,000 school-aged children throughout Nebraska face food insecurity. While Nebraska leaders have tried to address the issue in recent years by expanding eligibility in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to hundreds of additional families, further steps are necessary to ensure children in our state stay fed.
Late last year, the USDA announced that the federal Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (S-EBT) program, piloted in 2011, would become permanent.
Unfortunately, the S-EBT benefit is not currently available to Nebraska’s children because Gov. Jim Pillen declined to participate. But that could change under a bill with bipartisan support being considered in the Legislature. Introduced by Sen. Jen Day and designated a priority bill by Sen. Raymond Aguilar, Legislative Bill (LB) 952 would require the state to participate in the program.
S-EBT grants qualifying families $120 per child for groceries during the summer. The state is responsible for half the administrative costs—about $300,000—a small amount compared to the estimated $18 million in federal funds being distributed statewide.
The State’s justification for rejecting participation suggested alternatives like weekday summer meal sites sponsored by school districts or other organizations. However, those sites are not equitably available, especially in rural areas.
In 2023, only 60 of Nebraska's 180 meal sites were outside of the Lincoln/Omaha metro area, with all sites located in just 36 of our 93 counties. For rural working parents, the logistics of leaving work to transport their children to summer meal sites can be especially difficult.
While summer meal programs provide a valuable service, they alone cannot solve the problem of childhood food insecurity. Requiring S-EBT participation with the passage of LB 952 would be good for Nebraska’s children, especially in rural areas. We encourage members of the Health and Human Services Committee to vote yes on advancing this bill to debate before the full Legislature.