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Evaluation of the USDA Summer EBT Demonstrations: Lessons Learned From More Than a Decade of Research

Resource type
Research, Analysis & Background
Research type
Food Security
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Summary (260.06 KB)

The 2010 Agriculture Appropriations Act (PL 111-80) provided grant funding to states and indian tribal organizations (ITOs) to test innovative strategies to end childhood hunger and food insecurity in the summer months. The Summer EBT demonstrations, which began in 2011, were intended to supplement and bolster FNS nutrition assistance during the summer months. Prior research has found that childhood and household food insecurity rises when schools are out of session and school meals are unavailable.

The Act also provided funding for a rigorous evaluation of the newly authorized demonstration projects. The first evaluation studied how the demonstrations unfolded over the period 2011 to 2014 as well as impacts on outcomes such as food security and children’s nutrition.

Subsequent evaluations were conducted as the demonstrations expanded and examined demonstrations operating from 2015 to 2018 and those operating from 2019 to 2022. These evaluations focused on objectives related to program implementation and administration. During the 2019 to 2022 evaluation period, only three indian tribal organizations continued to operate the demonstrations. This evaluation provided highly detailed information on unique operational opportunities and challenges in indian tribal organizations.

Key Findings

The most notable findings from the decade of evaluations include:

  • Summer EBT reduces childhood food insecurity by a significant amount, including the most severe form of food insecurity.
  • Summer EBT promotes a healthy diet.
  • Some eligible households do not redeem some or any of their benefit.
  • Parents and caregivers have positive opinions of Summer EBT.

The findings from these evaluations play an important role in shaping program operations for the permanent Summer EBT program. Among the strategies USDA has adopted to overcome challenges identified in the evaluations are:

  • Using a range of diverse outreach techniques.
  • Implementing a year-round approach to program implementation and operations.
  • Requiring centralized, statewide data systems and application processes.
  • Encouraging flexibility in distribution and rollover of benefits.
Page updated: March 12, 2024