Schools have played a vital role in providing Hoosier children with access to food and meal services during the pandemic, using local meal services and the records they keep.
Right now, Indiana officials are urging families to make sure their schools have up-to-date address information to facilitate a pandemic-related meal program. The EBT Pandemic Program aims to fill the meal gaps for low-income families by providing food benefits to students who missed school meals due to COVID-19.
The idea is simple: If a student has to stay home for COVID-related reasons, such as quarantine or after a positive test, the state uses the data collected and maintained by the school to send families a benefit card that covers the cost of missed school meals.
But Adrienne Shields, director of Indiana’s family resources division, said distributing those cards was more complicated. Some families did not receive their cards or they were sent to the wrong person because the addresses registered with their child’s school are not correct or complete – especially for those who live in mobile homes or homes. hotels.
“If you have a student who lived in a mobile home, we may not have received the lot number – we may have received the address of the mobile home park but we never received the number. lot, ”she said. “We may have received the hotel address, but we have not received the room number.”
As of May 2020, Shields said the state has paid more than $ 762 million in P-EBT benefits to support more than 752,000 different students across the state.
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Shields said another distribution would likely arrive in early December and the state has started using specialized software to help confirm addresses provided by schools before sending out P-EBT cards.
Shields said families with questions about P-EBT or other benefits can call 211 for help, which is handled by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, or visit the benefits portal.
Schools also served around 15 million meals to needy Hoosier children during the pandemic even as they struggling with supply chain issues and staff shortages, according to No Kid Hungry Indiana, an affiliate of a national nonprofit.
Tarrah Westercamp is the School Program Manager for No Kid Hungry Indiana. She said about $ 1.1 million sent to schools by the non-profit organization resulted in new and expanded meal services during COVID-19.
For example, the school town of Hammond deployed a food truck with a custom Google Map tool that families can use in any language.
“And that provided them with the sites and meal times, like duty times, where their families could come and get free meals,” Westercamp said.
Other schools across the state have created or expanded weekend meal programs for needy students, summer and mobile meal services, and vacation meal events for community members. .
Westercamp said the number of children facing hunger in Indiana increased by about 20,000 during the pandemic. She said people can help connect families with food services by sharing information about resources available in their community or by donating to organizations like No Kid Hungry.