USDA extends pandemic meal program for students through summer months

WSAV NOW

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will be extending Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits through the summer months.

P-EBT provides grocery benefits, approximately $34 a week, to help parents cover the costs of the free or reduced-price meals their kids would normally receive in school.

“Summer hunger is connected to so many other issues. I think this pandemic has really taught us what works and what doesn’t in a time of crisis. And we know that we need to take continued action to make sure that we end child hunger across the country,” No Kid Hungry Associate Director Eleni Towns told WSAV NOW.

Expanding these benefits through summer is expected to impact more than 1.3 million children and bring nearly $493 million in benefits to families across the state.

“This just makes sense. Making sure families have additional grocery benefits during the summer months is an effective and proven way to prevent kids from going hungry when schools are out,” No Kid Hungry Senior Vice President Lisa Davis said.

“Pandemic EBT is a practical, efficient way to reach more kids with the food they need when they are not in school. It works alongside programs like summer meals, WIC and SNAP to give states and communities the resources and flexibility they need to combat hunger, especially in the summer months.”

Towns says this expansion through the summer of 2022 could be a permanent solution to summer food needs.

“These benefits are especially essential in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic when millions of families continue to face increased financial strain and hardship,” Town said. “Summer hunger is linked to summer learning loss as well as a higher likelihood of illnesses and emotional stress.”

According to No Kid Hungry, children face a higher risk of hunger during the summer. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 1 in 7 children who received free or low-cost school meals were able to access meals in the summer due in part to challenges like transportation, scheduling and even weather.

They say P-EBT provides a direct benefit to families, which helps to overcome these challenges and get food to kids.

“This summer, P-EBT will help parents purchase more of the food their kids need, when they need it,” Town said. “As Congress begins the process of reauthorizing the child nutrition programs, we urge them to make closing the summer meal gap a priority and build on the demonstrated success of P-EBT.”

No Kid Hungry is helping families find free summer meals near them through their Free Meals Finder map and texting hotline.

Map: No Kid Hungry

Parents and caregivers can text the word “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877 to find the nearest sites.

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