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Summer meals expanded nationwide, free lunch in CA public schools

7-27-21

Across the U.S., millions of children don’t know where their next meal will come from and that’s especially true during the summer when kids aren’t in school.

But a newly expanded safety net insures many children are fed while families recover from the financial hardships imposed by the pandemic.

When California schools reopen in the fall, all public school students will have the option to receive a free lunch regardless of their family’s income. The decision was made possible by an unexpected budget surplus, making it the largest free student lunch program in the U.S.

To bridge the hunger gap during non-school months, the American Rescue Plan signed by President Biden in March extends the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) through summer 2022. All children who were eligible to receive free or reduced cost meals during the school year will automatically receive a P-EBT loaded with $375 in the mail. Cards for eligible young children (under age 6) will be mailed beginning early July through August, while cards for eligible school age children will be automatically mailed beginning early August through November.

There is no application and the card does not affect other benefits families may be receiving. Do not throw your card away, as it will be reloaded with additional benefits. Each eligible child will receive their own P-EBT 2.0 card.

NoKidHungry, a national nonprofit that fights child hunger, found that the number of meals served during last summer increased under the P-EBT option. Free and reduced-price meals increased 160% in July 2020 compared to July 2019, meaning kids received 148 million more meals.

Another resource is available through the City of Los Angeles, which is offering free grab and go lunches at 80 different city parks for all children between 1 and 18 years old. No proof of income is required and food is being served on a first-come-first-served basis. Text 97779 to find your closest park location.

In San Bernardino, the SBCUSD will distribute meals to students and children age 18 and younger on Wednesdays from 8 to 11 a.m. at 12 different schools. Any family whose children are not attending summer school in the District are encouraged to participate in the Wednesday meal distribution, where they will receive seven days’ worth of meals.

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