The Pennsylvania departments of Education (PDE), Agriculture, and Human Services (DHS) announced today that thousands of students and families will continue to receive nutritious meals during the pandemic.
The Biden Administration, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services Department, is extending or providing flexibilities to the National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT).
National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option
The USDA recently announced several meal service flexibilities that enable social distancing are now extended through June 30, 2022. Usually only available during the summer, schools will have the option to serve meals through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the 2021-22 school year.
With this option, schools would receive higher meal reimbursements for each meal to support serving the most nutritious meals possible while managing increased costs associated with pandemic-related operational challenges. In addition, schools and childcare centers can continue providing breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks in non-group settings at flexible mealtimes. Caregivers can also pick up meals for their children when programs are not operating normally while maintaining appropriate social distancing.
“We are pleased to hear about USDA’s continued commitment to food security by creating opportunities for students and families to have access to resources that support nutritional needs through the next school year,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “These programs create accessibility and offer relief to families during such an unpredictable time in our lives.
Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT)
The Wolf Administration recently received approval from the USDA to extend P-EBT benefit eligibility to families of Pennsylvania SNAP-eligible children who are childcare-aged. This federally funded program helps families cover the cost of breakfasts and lunches for their children and is designed to help families who may have strained resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Benefits will be available to cover eligible children during the period of October 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021, and the first of three benefit issuances will begin this month.
Pennsylvania will distribute benefits to eligible families in three phases, as follows:
- The first round of benefits will be distributed in late April or early May to the families of children eligible for P-EBT during the period of September 1, 2020, through November 30, 2020.
- The second round of benefits will be distributed in early June to the families of children eligible for P-EBT during the period of December 1, 2020, to February 28, 2021.
- The third round of benefits will be distributed in mid-July to the families of children eligible for P-EBT during the period of March 1, 2021, through May 31, 2021.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Pennsylvania has also recently received additional financial support from the USDA to extend SNAP benefits to more families who may be in need. Households that currently receive the maximum monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit will begin to receive a regular monthly emergency allotment so long as Pennsylvania’s disaster declaration, which is required to authorize emergency allotments, remains in place.
Households receiving the monthly maximum benefit will receive an additional payment equal to 50 percent of their normal monthly benefit. Households that previously received smaller emergency allotments will receive an amount equal to 50 percent of the monthly maximum for their households’ size.
Throughout the pandemic, PDE, Agriculture, and DHS have worked together and with other state and federal agencies, organizations, and programs to help ensure no student or family goes hungry throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis.
“These programs and the flexibilities proactively implemented by the USDA are critical extensions to our charitable food system in Pennsylvania,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “Pennsylvania is working to get back on our feet, but recovery takes time. These programs allow families to rely less on the charitable food system, which has been working in overdrive since the pandemic hit, while continuing to ensure kids receive the necessary nutrition to power through school days and grow their young minds.”
For more information on public assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov