The idea of kids going hungry at school isn't exactly a new concept. I can still recall my dad sharing stories about his own school days, when he sometimes had to rely on the "free" meal provided by the school, which, oddly enough, always seemed to be clam chowder. He grew up in Arizona, so not exactly clam chowder territory. Being the middle child of four, raised by a single mom, there were definitely days when food was tight. Needless to say, he developed quite an aversion to clam chowder.

Thankfully, things have changed for the better. Nowadays, kids on free and reduced lunch programs get the same lunch options as everyone else. Plus, there are local organizations stepping up with programs like Backpack Buddies, ensuring that kids have snacks for after school and on weekends.

But when summer rolls around, that's when the issue really comes to the forefront. Did you know that during the summer, about 3 million kids rely on lunch programs and 1.8 million count on breakfast programs? The numbers on food insecurity in the U.S. are pretty staggering. Just take a look at Indiana, where nearly half of students (48.9%) are on free and reduced lunch, and in Kentucky, it's even higher at 56.8%.

National Center for Education Statistics Center for Education Statistics

Enter the USDA with their Sun Bucks initiative, a grocery benefit aimed at tackling food insecurity during the summer months. Families with eligible school-aged children can snag $120 per child to use for groceries over the summer. It's a lifeline for many families. And depending on where you are, Sun Bucks might go by a different name, but the mission remains the same: helping families put food on the table when school's out.

Families can receive SUN Bucks on top of other benefits like SNAP and WIC, and children can continue to enjoy free SUN Meals from local meal sites or with SUN Meals To-Go.

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 Who Qualifies?

Indiana Sun Bucks Eligibility

Children are eligible for the program if:

  • the household already participates in SNAP, TANF, or income-based Medicaid, or
  • the school-aged child is a foster child defined as being a ward of the state, homeless, or migrant, or
  • the child attends a school that offers the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program and the household income meets the requirements for free or reduced-price school meals.

Kentucky Sun Bucks Eligibility

The following students are considered automatically eligible for SEBT benefits:

• Students aged 6-17 as of August 1st, 2023 who have received SNAP, KTAP, and/or Kinship Care for at least one (1) month since July 1st, 2023 are eligible and will automatically receive benefits. You do not need to submit an application. Students who do not fall into the above category, and are within the income eligibility limits, can apply for SEBT benefits online.

• Online SEBT benefit applications can be completed by using self-service capabilities located at or can be accessed through This application will be available starting on June 24th, 2024. 2

These are the income guidelines that will be used to determine SEBT eligibility.

attachment-sun bucks income

Live in a different state? Check the MAP to see if your state is participating.

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You can use SUN Bucks to pay for:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • meat, poultry, and fish
  • dairy products
  • breads and cereals
  • snack foods and non-alcoholic drinks

You cannot use SUN Bucks to purchase:

  • hot foods
  • pet foods
  • cleaning or household supplies
  • personal hygiene items
  • medicine

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