State gets USDA funds for missed school lunch

Beginning this week, families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals will begin receiving assistance with food purchasing.

Parents were notified of their eligibility for additional funding — about $370 per child — that will offset food expenses in a letter from the state earlier this month. Eligibility is determined when a household includes children who receive free or reduced-price meals when schools are open or includes children who attend schools that offer free meals to all students, according to the letter sent to families.

No action needs to be taken to receive the benefits, according to the letter.

The assistance comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s program, the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, which was authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, according to a Division of Health and Social Services news release.

Delaware’s Division of Social Services was approved to participate in the federal program by the USDA in the beginning of the month. Delaware is among dozens of other states to be approved to operate a P-EBT program.

The P-EBT cards can only be used to purchase certain food items, which does not include prepared or hot foods, the letter states. The P-EBT card can be used at stores that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards. A list of eligible foods can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligible-food-items.

Approximately 100,000 children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals throughout the state, and their families can now receive P-EBT benefits, the DHSS news release states.

The P-EBT program provides a supplemental food-purchasing benefit to current SNAP households and a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been available at school, the news release states.

As Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency March 13, and all Delaware schools were closed as of March 16, funding includes March and April, and will continue through May and part of June — or the averaged 65 days of school that were lost due to coronavirus.

Families will receive $5.70 per child, which is equal to the federal reimbursement rate for breakfast and lunch, according to the DHSS news release. For March and April, that amounts to $193.80 per child, $119.70 per child in May and $57 per child in June.

Since schools were first closed in mid-March, districts rallied to serve meals — breakfast and lunch — during the week when schools would typically be in session. The services have shifted slightly since it first began, with districts tending to serve the same amount of meals but on limited day schedules. Meals typically cover the week days. Assistance, such as from the Backpack Program operated by the Food Bank, has helped supplement food during weekends.

Districts will continue to serve meals. Alison May, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said in an email that the transition between this school year service and summer service “should be seamless.”

“The majority of those operating meal sites right now will continue to do so in the same fashion over the summer months,” she said.
Families receiving P-EBT cards will still be able to pick up meals at district sites, according to the letter.

“The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program is an important way for the Department of Health and Social Services to ensure that children will get the nutrition they need, especially with schools closed for the remainder of the school year,” DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker said in a prepared statement earlier this month. “We are grateful for the approval of Delaware’s program by the USDA.”

SNAP households were issued funds beginning May 11. Non-SNAP households that are eligible will be issued the P-EBT card this week, with the March and April funds already loaded onto it.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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