Three updates to federal nutrition programs for children
Everything you need to know about changes to P-EBT, student lunches, and summer meals
By Emily Gallion, Grant & Advocacy Manager, and Caitlyn McIntosh, Volunteer & Intake Specialist
In recent months, the United States Department of Agriculture has announced several extensions to temporary provisions to serve children during the pandemic. These include policies related to The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
Here’s what you need to know about eligibility to these programs:
- P-EBT extended through summer
The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), which provides additional funds for qualifying families with children, has been extended through summer 2021.
Families who qualify will receive two payments of $375 in benefits for each child. Families already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or P-EBT should have received their benefits on their existing card June 30. First-time recipients should receive a new card mid-July.
There is no application process for this program. If you believe you qualify and have not received additional funds, call the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services Hotline at 1-866-244-0071.
Children who meet any of the following criteria will qualify for the additional summer benefits:
- Children eligible for free or reduced cost meals at school
- Children who attend a school where every child receives free meals
- Children under the age of six in SNAP households
Receiving P-EBT benefits will not impact your immigration status. As of April 2021, the public charge rule — which barred visa applicants determined at risk of becoming dependent on government assistance — is no longer in effect.
For more information on P-EBT, visit http://ohiopebt.org/.
2. National school lunch program to include all students next school year
The Ohio Department of Education received approval from the United States Department of Agriculture to offer free lunch and free breakfast to all students at schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) for the 2021-2022 school year.
To see if your school district participates in the NSLP, you can search this database here: http://ohiopebt.org/NSLP.php.
We are pleased to see this step towards ensuring that every child has enough to eat while at school. Students who experience food insecurity are more likely to experience other challenges, including attendance issues, worse educational outcomes, and poor physical and mental health.
Making school lunches free for all students eliminates the burden of applying, which can be a barrier for low-income households. It also addresses the issue of student lunch debt and the issue of “lunch shaming,” when students are given alternate meals or otherwise singled out for not having lunch money.
School lunches provide important nutritional support to all students. One study released this year found that schools were the single greatest source of healthy meals for children.
3. Summer meal waivers extended
The USDA has extended waivers to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) that allow for more flexibility at sites.
This program, which provides free healthy meals in low-income areas during summer months, was designed to prevent children and teens from going hungry when school is not in session. These sites serve anyone 18 and younger.
The waivers include:
- Meals can be picked up or delivered, rather than being eaten on-site
- Meals may be served outside standard times
- Parents and guardians are allowed to pick up meals on behalf of their children
- Waives the requirement that “open sites” be located in areas where at least half of children are in low-income households.
To find a summer meal site near you, use this search tool.