SAN DIEGO, Calif. (KGTV) - For 250,000 San Diego County students, school is not just access to education, it is access to food.
“We know that for many many of our students, the stable meal they can rely on each day is that breakfast and lunch they can normally get at school,” said SDUSD Trustee Richard Barrera.
There are food distribution sites across the county where families can pick up meals for kids while school is not in session. These services will continue through the summer. While thousands are taking advantage of the food distribution sites, not everyone can physically get to the locations, so there is a new state resource to combat that.
Pandemic EBT, or P-EBT, is available to students who are eligible for free or reduced price meals at school. Families can apply and get $365 per child on a card that can be used like a debit card at grocery stores or online. The money stays on the card for a year. That number was chosen based on an estimate of how much it would cost to feed a child through the summer.
With about a million households applying in the first week, Anahid Brakke with the San Diego Hunger Coalition said there has been a delay with signing up, so anyone interested needs to have patience during the application process. She said it's currently taking about three weeks to process and warned that phone lines are currently backed up, adding that it could take until the end of July to process everyone.
“If you apply, if you leave a voicemail, if you send an email, they are making their way through all of that. They’re hiring new staff at the state, they’re extremely committed to making sure everybody who is eligible get their card,” said Brakke.
Families need to apply by June 30. If there is more than one child in a family, all of the money will come on one card and the oldest child’s name will be on the card.
Barrera mentioned some of the feedback so far has been caution from families who are worried about sharing their information.
“Some of our families have called us and said is this some sort of scam? Is somebody trying to get my information? No. Take advantage of this program. It’s meant to support you and your kids,” said Barrera.
He said SDUSD is communicating this information through robocalls, so families should not be surprised if they get a voicemail with this information.
Leaders also encouraged everyone to apply because families could be eligible if a parent recently lost a job or took a pay cut.
According to a release, P-EBT was authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 which allows for states to apply to the USDA to run a P-EBT program to meet children’s nutritional needs. California’s P-EBT program was approved in April 2020 and began implementation in May 2020.