Food access program launches for students during COVID-19 crisis

Harrisburg

Trays of food at a school cafeteria. (KOIN)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A plan to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to students who are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals at school through the National School Lunch Program has been approved by the USDA.

The Wold Administration says the program, known as Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, will be temporary and is designed to bridge the gap left by schools closing and help families who may have strained resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Schools may be closed for the rest of the school year because of COVID-19, but students still need to eat breakfast and lunch. The Wolf Administration is committed to doing everything in its power to make sure that families have the resources they need during this public health crisis, and I am very grateful that the USDA will allow us to offer this support to families” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “Going without essential needs like food to get by now can jeopardize children’s health and development in both the short and long-term, and P-EBT will help families make up for the loss of in-school meals and avoid these potential long-term outcomes.”

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The approved Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer plan will allow for DHS to provide SNAP funds to households with children who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program due to pandemic-related school closures.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer benefits will be issued through EBT cards issued to qualifying families.

The Wolf Administration says a family’s benefit will be determined based off the federal reimbursement rate for the daily rate of free school breakfasts and lunches. This benefit will be calculated for the remainder of the school year, leading to an approximate benefit of $370.50 per child if they were receiving free or reduced-price school meals when school closures began. Now that the program is approved, benefits will begin to be issued to qualifying families within approximately 15 business days.

If a family’s economic situation has changed since school closures began, they can still apply for the National School Lunch Program and, if determined eligible, receive P-EBT benefits. Families can apply online at www.compass.state.pa.us.

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