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Feeling the pinch of the pandemic: Local food providers, parents prepare for new school year

While P-EBT benefits may not continue, other resources are available for anyone in need
Produce and non-perishable foods fill a brown paper bag.
Produce and non-perishable foods fill a brown paper bag.(Pixabay)
Published: Aug. 9, 2020 at 10:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - For local food providers, answers to the question of how to help students in need this school year remain up in the air, as groups await a decision by Congress on whether or not to extend the pandemic electronic benefits transfer program.

“Right now, nationwide, we’re seeing unprecedented, record-breaking food price increases,” said Cara Durr of the Food Bank of Alaska, “and of course, we know how expensive food is in Alaska.”

Durr is one of the Alaska-based providers who are hoping legislators in Washington extend the P-EBT program. While it serves as a supplement to other coronavirus relief payments, it’s arguably one of the most important in getting food to hungry students, according to Durr.

“We saw a big, big increase in need when the pandemic first started, and we had to very quickly adapt to how we do things,” Durr said.

“Replacements are going to be more important than ever,” she added, “especially when we’re trying to figure out how to serve all these kids in different scenarios.”

The P-EBT program provides additional money for families to buy food following COVID-19-related school closures, but for now, it only applies to last year: As such, while funds allotted for last school year are still being applied to accounts, money beyond that specified allowance for the 2019-2020 year is not.

For the 2019-2020 school year, families with kids who received free or reduced-price school meals were eligible to receive up to $458 per child, but the recent stimulus bill the Senate released didn’t include an extension to the program or any other supports to specifically address food insecurity.

If funding for the P-EBT program comes through, it would likely go straight to EBT cards qualified families already have.

The P-EBT program is only for families with students enrolled at free or reduced-price lunch schools, but there are resources across the state available to those with or without children. You can see the calendar for the Anchorage-area food distribution schedule for August 2020 by clicking here.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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