Food assistance in the amount of $375 per kid will be provided to all families in the New York City public school system, regardless of their income, in order to assist in covering the expenses of meals that were consumed during the pandemic last summer. This will occur regardless of whether the child attended summer school or not.
This month, the state started distributing the retroactive benefit to students enrolled as of June 2021.
The benefit comes from the P-EBT, a federally-created program that covers meal expenditures for kids who would normally get free meals if they were at school but were studying remotely due to the pandemic. Since the pandemic started in March 2020, the state has sent more than $3.4 billion in food benefits to public school families throughout the state, according to authorities.
All public school pupils in New York City, regardless of their family’s income, are eligible for the P-EBT program since the city offers free lunch to all residents. Families, regardless of their immigration status, are also entitled to apply.
Eligible families in 2020 or 2021 will get P-EBT cards in the mail with the funds preloaded (parents and children should retain their cards after they’ve spent the funds, in case the program is revised).
The benefits are valid for at least 274 days from the date of issuance and may be used to buy qualified food goods at retailers that accept them.
According to a representative of the state’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), which administers the payments, some qualified students have yet to receive benefits due to practical issues, such as erroneous address information on file or insufficient information from the school.
According to Liz Accles of Community Food Advocates, a New York-based charity dedicated to food availability, “it’s been hugely important to help families stay afloat during this crisis.” “New York City’s public school students are in families who are struggling to make ends meet.” Moreover, “given the cost of living in New York City, there are many more that are just above federal eligibility for free or reduced price meals.”
The city’s education department estimates that 73% of public school pupils live in poverty. “School meals are one of the biggest, most far-reaching anti-hunger programs. If kids access two meals a day, that’s 40 meals a month for each child in the household,” Accles said.
Change Research and No Kid Hungry recently surveyed over 600 families and discovered that 58% of people with children in New York City schools had struggled to consume healthy and nutritious meals in the previous year. A whopping 43% of respondents said they were concerned about a member of their family not having enough food to eat. One in three people had to go without a meal.
Starting on June 28, New York City schools will provide free lunches to anybody under the age of 18 at chosen campuses. The program’s history shows, however, that families in need have not used it to its full potential. When children are not receiving their normal free lunches at school over the summer, they are more likely to be food insecure, according to recent studies.
Rachel Sabella, executive director of No Kid Hungry New York, a New York branch of a nationwide movement to end hunger in the United States, referred to the summer as “the hungriest time of the year.” For many families, there may not be a summer meal site close to them where they can access those free meals.
For Sabella, another advantage of P-EBT is that it allows families to shop for food at nearby stores rather than having to go a long distance to a facility that offers free food.
Legislators are working to make P-EBT available to more people and to implement a national summer food assistance program. In 2021, President Joe Biden’s American Families plan included an EBT proposal for the summer months as well. However, the summer program is still in its experimental phase and only serves a small number of states at this point. “Summer EBT would be pretty much exactly what pandemic EBT is; it would be available in the summer months when school is closed for families that had been receiving free and reduced price meals as another way to get those grocery benefits,” Sabella said.
A public health emergency designation for Covidio remains in force for the time being, but each state must get USDA approval before the P-EBT benefit can go into effect. The public health emergency has been extended until mid-July.