Officials striving to offset end of free meal waivers

ELKINS — Although the U.S. free school meal program ended in June, local officials are working to bring help to local students and their families.

“We had a summer lunch program that was part of the pandemic funding that ended at the end of our summer school program here in Randolph County,” LaDonna Rosencrance, the Randolph County director of Child Nutrition, told The Inter-Mountain Wednesday. “But parents will be getting P-EBT cards again for Randolph County. So every family in the county who had a child in public school will get a card this month.”

Families of students who were eligible for the National School Lunch Program during the 2021-22 school year will receive a one-time benefit for each child enrolled in the program.

The benefits will be loaded on a P-EBT card that will be mailed out to households throughout the county and are expected to arrive sometime around Aug. 22. The card will be loaded with $391 for each child enrolled in the summer lunch program.

“Those cards can be used for parents to feed children in their homes,” Rosencrance said. “As long as a child’s information is correct with what their school have, everything should go smoothly. But the card is to be used strictly for food and someone tries to use it for anything else it will be denied.”

Typically children have to qualify for benefits of this type, which are income-based. But because all kids eat for free in Randolph County through the Community Eligibility Program, all school children will qualify and receive the funds.

“Technically the pandemic isn’t officially over, so they are sending these cards out to help families,” Rosencrance said. “The cards can be used at any grocery store and places like that. It’s like a SNAP card, and just like a SNAP card, you have to spend it on food or it won’t go through.”

The summer food program will continue next year in Randolph County. Every child between the ages of 1 to 18 is eligible.

“We offer summer meals every summer and they will be available again next year,” Rosencrance said. “It was a little bit different this year from the way it was back when the pandemic started. Parents just couldn’t come and pick up the food and take it home like they did. They had to come to the site and eat it where we offered food. And it will be that way again in the summer of 2023.”

“The pandemic has been tough on everyone and these programs have been extremely beneficial to our students in the county,” Randolph County Assistant Superintendent Joseph Arbogast told The Inter-Mountain.

Two years ago the government approved waivers allowing students to eat school meals for free. The waivers ended on June 30, with Congress deciding not to extend the program.

In March 2020, Congress approved the child nutrition COVID-19 waivers via the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Then-President Donald Trump signed the bill into law.

Information regarding the PEBT program, including the latest updates, can be found on the PEBT website at https://wvde.us/wv-pebt/. For questions, go to the website, call the PEBT hotline at 1-866-545-6502. or send an email to dhhrwvebt@wv.gov or wvpebt@k12.wv.us


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