US Ag Secretary Vilsack hopes Iowa will reconsider not participating in summer food assistance program for students

CLEAR LAKE — US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he hopes Iowa will reconsider the decision not to participate in a program that provides additional food assistance for children during the summer months.

The Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children program provides families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school with an EBT card that allows them to purchase $40 of food per child each month when school is not in session.

The Iowa Departments of Education and Health and Human Services notified the USDA in late December that they would not participate in the program, saying it did not have a strong nutrition focus and that it would cost the state $2.2 million as states are required to cover a part of the program’s administrative costs.

Vilsack says he’d like state officials to think again about that decision.  “We now are excited about the opportunity in a number of states to essentially work with schools and others to promote summer feeding. I will tell you that I’m hopeful that at some point in time the state of Iowa joins 37 other states that have made the decision to participate in the summer feeding program.”

Vilsack says keeping students fed well year-round is important.  “The teachers and professionals here know that if youngsters can maintain good nutrition throughout the entire year, they come back for the new school year ready to learn and ready to be what they were intended to be.”

Vilsack is encouraging the 13 states including Iowa to be a part of this program. “We think it’s a real good opportunity for us to expand the support and help to ensure youngsters are well fed.”

Vilsack made his comments during an appearance at Clear Lake High School last week.

Governor Reynolds has said that the Summer EBT program is linked to a pandemic-era program that was not sustainable.