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MO gears up for participation in kids’ summer food program

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(Missouri News Network)  Missouri is planning ahead to make sure kids from lower-income families have enough to eat this summer.

The state has opted into a federal food assistance program known as Summer EBT, which supplies a little extra grocery money during the long summer break. In Missouri, the most recent data from the nonprofit Feeding America show one in eight children is food-insecure.

Christine Woody, food security policy manager for Empower Missouri, said 12% of Missouri households don’t always have enough to eat, and the $40 per summer month for qualifying children will go a long way.

“It doesn’t seem like a whole heck of a lot,” Woody acknowledged. “But when milk prices and egg prices and everything has gone up so significantly, just the extra funds will help out a family when they’re not in school, where they would be receiving the free and reduced-price lunch.”

It’s estimated about 429,000 Missouri children will be helped by the program, and more than $51 million in benefits will come into the state, to be spent at local grocery stores.

Chad Higdon, CEO of Second Harvest Community Food Bank in St. Joseph, said he supports the new effort, which started with pilot programs in some other states. He believes the extra aid can make a meaningful difference, particularly for rural families.

“Summer can be the hungriest time of year for families with school-aged children, and some of the most beneficial benefit was for kids in rural communities,” Higdon pointed out. “Young families are some of the most vulnerable and so, this is a good opportunity to really support families that are low income.”

According to Feeding America, inadequate nutrition can have a profound negative affect on a child’s physical, mental and behavioral health and development. The Summer EBT program is expected to benefit about 21 million children in 35 states.