New SUN Bucks Food Program to feed children over the summer

 HEALTH

Compiled by Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor 

A new program is expected to provide food for nearly a million school children in North Carolina this summer. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, announced its intent to administer the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (S-EBT) Program known as “SUN Bucks.”

Communications from NCDHHS and NC DPI will be sent to families this week, alerting them to the new SUN Bucks program. If you receive a call, email or text from NCDHHS, please do not disregard it. Families are encouraged to keep their contact information updated with their child’s school and with their local Department of Social Services if receiving nutrition or other benefits so they do not miss out on the potential SUN Bucks benefit.

Families who qualify for the SUN Bucks program will receive a one-time payment of $120 per eligible child for the summer period. SUN Bucks will be delivered to families on debit-like EBT cards for families to purchase groceries at retailers that accept EBT, including most major grocery stores in North Carolina.

“Food is foundational to health,” said NC Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “The SUN Bucks program will help relieve kids’ hunger, support their health and promote the ability for them to learn.”

The SUN Bucks program will begin summer 2024 and will work together with other available nutrition programs, such as summer meals for children, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to help provide consistent access to nutrition to children and families during the summer.

Most eligible children will automatically qualify for the program, though some families will have to apply for the new SUN Bucks program. Children automatically qualify if they are eligible for any of the following programs:

  • Free and reduced-price meals at schools
  • Food and Nutrition Services
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • OR if they receive NC Medicaid benefits and have a household income below 185% of the federal poverty level.

If your child is already individually approved to receive free and reduced-price meals at school, you have until March 28, 2024, to update your address at your child’s school to make sure your child receives their SUN Bucks card at the correct mailing address during the summer months.

While SUN Bucks will be a fully operational food assistance program by this summer, it is not the only option for children to receive critical nutrition assistance in North Carolina. SUN Bucks will be complementary to existing USDA summer nutrition programs  for children, including SUN Meals (meals to eat on-site at approved locations) and SUN Meals To-Go (meals for pick up or delivery). Additionally, families who may be eligible for nutrition programs like FNS, WIC and others can learn more at www.ncdhhs.gov/fns. 

Please visit www.ncdhhs.gov/sunbucks for eligibility criteria and other information. The website will be updated as new information becomes available.


Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news. 

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