Nearly 400K children provided help with food security by Pandemic EBT program

Child makes pizza, broccoli in a dish
Child makes pizza, broccoli in a dish

OLYMPIA — In the spring, hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians lost their job due to COVID-19. She was one of them. A single mom, she was home all summer with her three children, two of whom had been in school when the pandemic hit. They were struggling to make ends meet.

This family is one of thousands in Washington state who qualified for a U.S. Department of Agriculture food benefits program called Pandemic EBT or P-EBT. From June through September 2020, the Department of Social and Health Services distributed more than $147 million in food benefits to families who qualified for P-EBT, serving nearly 400,000 children. A partnership program administered by DSHS and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, P-EBT helped families whose children no longer had access to free and reduced-price meals when schools closed due to COVID-19.

Washington students in grades K-12 who were eligible for free and reduced-price meals during the school year were also eligible to receive the one-time benefit — up to $399 per eligible child in each household. Families who already received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, or SNAP, known as Basic Food in Washington, did not need to apply and the benefits were deposited onto the families’ existing EBT card. Other families whose children were eligible applied online or over the phone and were mailed an EBT card. More than $60 million in P-EBT benefits were distributed to families who did not already receive food assistance. The total number of children served was 399,733.

The P-EBT program supported food security for hundreds of thousands of children and made a positive economic impact on Washington’s communities. The program is just one example of what can happen when government agencies work together with shared goals, understanding and commitment to serve their communities.

Although P-EBT has ended, USDA recently announced the extension of several waivers for the 2020–21 school year, including allowing schools to serve meals at no cost to all children in the community.

While all students may be provided free meals through the remainder of the school year, it is still critical that eligible families complete a school Meal Application, which determines a student’s eligibility for free and reduced-price meals. In addition to eligibility for meals, the information obtained from meal applications is used to determine student eligibility for a number of other school programs. The information is also used to drive funding and supports to schools.

DSHS and OSPI would like to thank local schools, district offices and community partners for their support and help reaching out to families who were eligible for P-EBT.

OSPI logo
OSPI logo

OSPI Contact: Ben King, 564–999–1304, ben.king@k12.wa.us

DSHS logo
DSHS logo

DSHS Contact: Norah West, 360–489–5587, norah.west@dshs.wa.gov

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