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Evaluating Summer Nutrition Assistance for Children


  • Abt documented Summer EBT successes and challenges and analyzed benefit usage from 2019-2022. Abt has conducted evaluations of previous pilot studies since 2011.
  • Summer EBT reduces severe food insecurity in children by a third.
  • In December 2022, Congress authorized Summer EBT as a permanent, nationwide program. Abt’s evaluations can provide vital information for scaling up the program.
The Challenge

The Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) pilots have operated since 2011 to provide grocery assistance to households with eligible children during summer months when millions of U.S. children lose access to free or reduced-price school lunches. Abt expanded on earlier work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)/Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and evaluated the 2019 through 2022 program years to document program challenges and successes. The evaluation will improve understanding of differences in benefit use by participants to inform how Summer EBT can better meet families’ needs.

The Approach

The evaluation included a Process Study and a Benefits Use Study. For the Process Study, Abt conducted focus groups and interviews with grantees, schools, grocery retailers, and the caregivers of children enrolled. As part of the Benefits Use Study, Abt analyzed the grocery transactions made by Summer EBT participants to learn what foods they purchase, how much, and who makes the purchases. As a result of the pandemic, the grantees were reduced from five states and three Independent Tribal Organizations (ITOs) to three ITOs.

The Results

The interviews and data provided information on family choices and how Summer EBT’s nutrition assistance meets the needs of families. Abt presented annual findings in interim reports to the USDA/FNS and will present a final report with combined data from 2019-2022. This report along with our decade of evaluations will help inform the USDA/FNS on how to implement a nationwide program in 2024, how nutrition assistance can reach more children, and how to improve efforts to meet the needs of families across the country.

Relevant Resources:

Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Dashboard Video Series:

Introduction to the SEBT Dashboard
In this video, we introduce the Summer EBT Data Dashboard, which provides an easy, user-friendly way to access and visualize Summer EBT data to find insights about the program from the last decade. The dashboard includes data on a variety of topics, from how often benefits are used, to the foods purchased, and household distances to grocery stores. Data can be analyzed and compared across years.

Getting Started with the SEBT Dashboard
This video orients you to the dashboard’s many views and shows you how to get started.

Exploring Data in the SEBT Dashboard
This video dives into the details, including what types of information you can find, and ideas for how to break down the data to glean insights into the Summer EBT program.