This program is helping Arizona parents take care of their kids this summer, with money for extra groceries

This program is helping Arizona parents take care of their kids this summer, with money for extra groceries

(Shutterstock Photo)

By Robert Gundran

June 26, 2024

“Anything helps,” Cortazar said. “So even though it’s not a lot, it’s still really helpful.”

An Arizona mom is getting through the summer with support from a federal program that gives families money to help feed their children while school is out.

Carmen Cortazar has two growing kids in the public school system in Somerton, a city in Yuma County.

Both kids get free lunch at school, which helps families like Cortazar’s save on grocery bills. But during the summer, those kids still need to eat healthy, hearty meals.

Enter the SUN Bucks program. It’s a grocery benefit under the US Department of Agriculture that’s available to families with children who get free or reduced lunch across the US.

Almost 30 million children participate in the USDA’s school breakfast and lunch programs on an average school day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

RELATED: This Phoenix school district is going electric—and neighbors are breathing easier

The SUN Bucks program steps in when those children step out of school, helping to support hard-working families as they care for their kids over the summer with $120 per child to buy groceries. Families with children who get free or reduced lunch are automatically enrolled.

“It’s nice because it’s extra money to buy food,” Cortazar said. “We have the kids the whole summer so they’re home all day, and it helps us out.”

The Biden administration announced the SUN Bucks program in May, alongside SUN Meals and SUN Meals To-Go.

SUN Meals are served at schools, parks, and community centers to kids 18 and under in communities throughout the country. There’s no application, and no questions asked—kids can just show up and eat.

SUN Meals To-Go offers pick-up and delivery meal options in many rural areas that don’t have SUN Meals available.

Roughly 21 million kids are expected to benefit from the SUN Bucks program alone this summer, according to the USDA.

Cortazar said her kids are at home for the summer from the end of May until late July, and the extra bit of money is extremely helpful.

“It’s good for about one month per child, but I think [the money offered] should go up,” she said.

The SUN Bucks program will be adjusted annually for inflation, and can help reduce child hunger during the summer by up to 33%, according to the USDA.

“Anything helps,” Cortazar said. “So even though it’s not a lot, it’s still really helpful.”

If you don’t receive SNAP benefits or your kids haven’t previously qualified for free or reduced lunch but think you might qualify for SUN Bucks, reach out to the summer EBT hotline at 833-648-4406 or email at [email protected]. Whether your family qualifies for assistance or not, anyone with kids 18 and under can feed their kids at a SUN Meals or SUN Meals To-Go location.

Cortazar said that she’d like to see positive programs that help Arizonans take care of their families be more publicized, because she only found out about the SUN Bucks program through word-of-mouth.

“I didn’t even know they were going to do this SUN Bucks thing,” Cortazar said. “I don’t [even] know if it was advertised, but I just found out from my cousin.”

Author

  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION
Related Stories
Share This