Millions of students across America will lose free meals if P-EBT isn’t extended.
Currently, the program is set to end June 30, 2022.
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The P-EBT program started during the pandemic. The USDA runs school meal programs and implemented pandemic-related changes in April 2021. The changes allowed schools nationwide to serve meals year round. This was done via the USDA’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO). This is only available during the summer months.
Schools that chose this option are getting larger than normal reimbursements for each meal served. The USDA also waived some of the income-based requirements to all0w more families access to food. However, these changes are set to end on June 30.
What are the next steps?
Schools participating in SSO served all students free meals during the pandemic, so free and reduced lunch applications were not collected. This means that schools don’t have the necessary data to make eligibility determinations for the summer and 2022-2023 school year.
The USDA is offering two options:
- Use free and reduced price application data from the 2019-2020 school year
- Allow all schools to use community eligibility provision data: estimate of the total number of students eligible for free and reduced price meals
Many states are making their own policies to provide meals. Some lawmakers have proposed more permanent solutions for universal meal plans guaranteeing breakfast, lunch, and dinner– but it never received a vote in Congress.
What about the National School Lunch Program?
The National School Lunch program is a federally-funded meal program and is available in public schools, nonprofit private schools, and residential child care institutions.
This program feeds nearly 30 million children a day at low- or no-cost. Participating schools get reimbursed for each meal they serve. Eligibility is determined based on participation of other federal programs, like SNAP.