SuN Bucks: Bridging Summer Nutrition Gaps in Missouri 


Young black girl smiling while holding a sandwich at an outdoor lunch
circular image of Jake Frydman
Jake Frydman, Health Policy Strategist

Nourishing food is vital for the growth and development of children but, for many families, summer is a difficult time to keep up with kids’ nutritional needs. The SUN Bucks program (also referred to as Summer EBT) is a new way for families whose children are eligible for free or reduced lunch to get additional funds during the summer months for healthy foods.   

For many Missouri kids, summer is the hungriest time of the year because when school ends, their families struggle to replace lost school meals. Studies have shown that inadequate meals cause adverse health effects like behavioral and cognitive problems, anemia, asthma, and poor oral health, all of which are amplified in children. SUN Bucks will give eligible families an additional $40 per month per child on a pre-loaded debit card (EBT card) specifically for food purchases. This program is expected to provide nearly 430,000 Missouri kids with meals this summer, increasing food security for families.   

While SUN Bucks is a brand-new program, it may sound familiar, as it functions similarly to benefits offered to families during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These benefits proved effective, alleviating hunger for over three million children across the nation. Noting this track record of success, Congress passed Summer EBT in 2022 as a bipartisan effort, establishing this pandemic era benefit as a permanent nutritional support program that will begin administering benefits this summer to interested states.   

Missouri advocates recognized the importance of the SUN Bucks program and worked with the Missouri Department of Social Services to submit a letter of intent to participate to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in December 2023.  

On May 10, 2024, the Missouri legislature passed the budget for fiscal year 2025 and a supplemental budget for 2024. Both budgets include the funding for Missouri SuN Bucks, the name of the state implementation of the federal SUN Bucks program. States are responsible for half of the administrative cost of the SUN Bucks program, while the federal government pays the remaining half of administrative costs and all benefits issued. Governor Mike Parson signed the supplemental budget, funding the program for Summer of 2024, but is yet to sign the fiscal year 2025 budget. Once the budget is passed, the program will be submitted for federal approval before taking effect this summer.  

Once the program starts, most eligible families will be enrolled automatically, without worrying about completing an application. Missouri SuN Bucks eligibility is determined by a child’s free and reduced-price meals program eligibility. Students who become newly eligible over the summer or who qualify but are not enrolled in the school meal program can enroll in Missouri SuN Bucks with an application.  

Missouri SuN Bucks will be a big win for our state. Helping families stay fed this season gives more kids the food they need to fuel their summer – a key step toward greater health equity in Missouri.