To help families affected by COVID-19 have access to food, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently implemented the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefit.

P-EBT is a supplemental food purchasing benefit available to current SNAP participants and other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. Click here to view the states that have been approved to operate a P-EBT program.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), states can submit a plan to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, which allows them to provide these benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. State agencies may operate P-EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.

The implementation of P-EBT is in line with the USDA’s commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and to keep kids fed when schools are closed. USDA is working with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators can continue to feed children. This latest action complements previously announced flexibilities for the Child Nutrition programs that:

  • Allow parents and guardians to pick up meals to bring home to their kids;
  • Temporarily waive meal time requirements to make it easier to pick up multiple-days’ worth of meals at once;
  • Allow meals to be served in non-congregate settings to support social distancing;
  • Waive the requirement that afterschool meals and snacks served through certain programs be accompanied by educational activities to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus; and
  • Allow states, on an individual state-by-state basis, to serve free meals to children in all areas, rather than only those in areas where at least half of students receive free or reduced-price meals.

The announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA’s FNS has taken to uphold its commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. USDA’s FNS administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy. Click here to learn more about FNS’s response to COVID-19.