Jun 4, 2024

California expands summer meal access for children

What you need to know: California is launching SUN Bucks, a new federal food program designed to ensure that children in families with low incomes can continue to receive food assistance during summer break. Most eligible families will automatically receive SUN Bucks electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards that can be used just like CalFresh benefits to purchase groceries. 

SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Newsom announced that the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is launching SUN Bucks in California, a new federal food program designed to ensure that children in families with low incomes have adequate nutrition while school is out for the summer. This comes as 14 Republican-led states, often claiming to support families, refused to fund these programs that will help kids and families across their states.

“For kids who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs, summer break can be a stressful and challenging time. Building on our ongoing efforts to support healthy food access for children year-round, I’m proud that California is partnering with the Biden-Harris Administration to provide SUN Bucks for our families so that no child faces hunger during the summer months.”

Governor Gavin Newsom

“Summer should be a time for children to play, explore, and enjoy the sunshine — not worry about their next meal. Through SUN Bucks, California is partnering with the Biden-Harris Administration in the fight against food insecurity — creating a California for ALL Kids and ensuring no child goes hungry, regardless of if they are in school or not.”

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom

WHY THIS MATTERS: SUN Bucks will provide $120 per child, which is equivalent to $40 per month, during the three months schools are typically closed during the summer – helping reduce food insecurity and making nutrition more reliably available to families and kids who need support.

MAKING IT EASIER ON CALIFORNIANS: Children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals through a school meal application or an alternative income form, or who receive CalFresh, CalWORKs, or Medi-Cal, are automatically enrolled. California is one of the first states in the nation to launch this new food program and get money to families.

HOW WE GOT HERE: In December 2022, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, which created a new, permanent Summer EBT program for states to provide food benefits to families with school-age children and low-incomes, beginning in 2024. In July 2023, California passed Assembly Bill 120, establishing the CDSS as the lead implementing agency, in partnership with the CDE, to maximize Summer EBT program participation for summer 2024. 

ADDITIONAL CALIFORNIA ACTION: In addition to SUN Bucks, the Summer Meal Programs provide opportunities for children in need to access meals during the summer months. Families can locate summer meal sites in their communities using the CA Meals for Kids App or by visiting the Summer Meal Service Sites webpage.

BIGGER PICTURE: California has a long-standing commitment to fighting hunger. During the 2022-2023 school year, California became the first state to implement a statewide Universal Meals Program for school children. The CDSS supports delivery of CalFresh food benefits to families in need, Disaster CalFresh benefits for victims of natural disasters, emergency food resources to local communities, and other nutrition services to ensure the health and well-being of all Californians. The Department also supported the delivery of Pandemic EBT and CalFresh Emergency Allotments to help meet nutrition needs during the pandemic.