California extends food stipend program to school children | News

Brian Perez, 18, picks up lunch from Maria Vilchez at Menlo-Atherton High School on March 19, 2020, at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will give stipends to 4 million California school children who would have relied on free lunch programs this past school year if it wasn’t for pandemic-related school closures.

Beginning August and September of this year, the state will issue about $4.3 billion in funds via Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to cover the days that eligible children did not receive a meal at school between the months of August 2020 through January 2021.

The program closely follows the USDA’s recent approval to issue funds to children under the age of 6 who depend on daycare facilities for nutritious meals.

To determine eligibility, California will depend on school data and USDA simplifying assumptions. New students who weren’t a part of the National School Lunch Program in the 2019-2020 school year will be able to certify their needs throughout the traditional application for school meals.

The program extends to public, charter and private schools and will make payments based off of the school’s opening status for each month of the school year. For schools that do not provide adequate information on its students’ school meal dependency or its opening status, the state will depend on local statistics from adjacent schools.

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