USDA Releases Interim Final Rule on Summer EBT and Non-Congregate Meal Service in Rural Areas

January 05, 2024

On December 29, 2023, USDA released an Interim Final Rule on two new(ish) programs aimed to address summer hunger: 1) Summer EBT - which provides $40/a month during the summer months to eligible students and 2) Non-Congregate Option for Summer Meal Service in Rural Areas. The two programs were made created by Congress at the end of 2022. The non-congregate option was first implemented last summer while Summer EBT will begin this Summer EBT. In 2024, 33 states will participate in Summer EBT - see full list here

Most relevant for district leaders, the rule:

  • For Summer EBT: Reiterates that students will be "streamlined certified", meaning that students who receive Free and Reduced Priced Lunch or categorically eligible are automatically enrolled in the program. Additionally, the program does not require matching with school records, reducing the burden on districts. For students who cannot be streamlined certified, a Summer EBT application must be created by the agency. For 2024 only, the state may compel school districts to process applications for Summer EBT but must fully reimburse districts for any costs incurred. Starting in 2025, states may not delegate the responsibility of the application process to districts.                                                         
  • For non-congregate meal service: the most notable change is an expansion of the definition for rural to include more communities that may technically fall into a "Metropolitan Statistical Area" but could still be considered rural. (See 90236).