INDIANAPOLIS, In. – On Friday, President Biden signed an executive order to increase access to nutritious food for millions of children missing meals due to school closures. The president is asking U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase a COVID-19 food assistance program by 15 percent.
Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the school meals missed due to COVID-related school closures.
The program has allowed P-EBT benefit amounts up to $5.70 per child per school day. This action called on by President Biden could provide a family with three children more than $100 of additional support every two months.
Sara Gasiorowski, Director of Child Nutrition at MSD of Wayne Township, said nearly 80 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. At the school district, all students already receive breakfast and lunch at no charge.
MSD of Wayne Township has been fully remote since November. Since many families rely on meals served at school, the district has set up several locations to pass out food.
“We have added more service hours to pick up more students and that has worked but there are some that cannot make it at all and that is sad,” said Gasiorowki.
The impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity is seen statewide. Feeding Indiana’s Hungry says the state saw a 30 percent increase in food insecurity in 2020 over 2018 levels. The organization also says 1 in 4 children are not sure where their next meal will come from.
“The first piece would be the economic impact and what families saw with loss of jobs or loss of hours,” said Emily Weikert Bryant, Executive Director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry.