Students who receive free or reduced-price school meals will get federal food assistance, officials say

Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 8:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Students from kindergarten to 12th-grade who normally receive free or reduced-price meals in school will receive federal food assistance.

According to the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the state to implement a Pandemic EBT program that will help supplement food costs for families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

DSS said as many as 467,000 K-12 students in the state who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are expected to receive this benefit.

“We know that schools in South Carolina do more than educate children; they provide them nutritious meals that many families depend on. Even during ordinary summers, many families struggle to keep children fed,” said DSS State Director Michael Leach. “Since schools closed much sooner due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students have lost access to a vital food resource.”

DSS has partnered with the South Carolina Department of Education to identify students eligible for free or reduced-price meals to share this info so that those families can receive the federal assistance without having to apply for it.

Based on the federal guidelines, the benefit amount per child is $5.70 per day. That rate is multiplied by the average number of days school was canceled. In South Carolina, that equals 58 days. At $5.70 per day, each child who was enrolled in a free or reduced-price meal program in March will receive $330.

The total amount of aid will be more than $154 million.

Sharing God’s Love Executive Director Shari Selke said the aid will provide flexibility to students and families her food bank cannot.

Selke said donation levels are recovering after a drop at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We don’t have the answers to everything. Some people have special diet needs,” she said. “Whether it’s diabetes or it’s low sugar low salt, we’re just very dependent on the donations that we receive and, if we don’t have it, they have to make up that. They have to figure it out.”

Selke said her team is seeing more families and more children as the pandemic drags on.

“For the most part, that’s all people need is just one or two visits and they get back on their feet. However, with this pandemic, I’m not sure that’ll be the scenario and I want people to know that we’re here for them,” she said.

People in need of help can contact the food bank about arranging a pick-up or donating food/financial support.

Also, SNAP households with qualifying children will receive Pandemic EBT benefits automatically on their EBT card on July 7 or on their normal monthly SNAP issuance date. Purchasing food with the Pandemic EBT benefit is subject to the same restrictions as traditional EBT cards issued for SNAP recipients.

Here’s a list of schools that qualify for the Pandemic EBT benefits.

For more information, visit this link.

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