Schatz: USDA Approves New Program To Help Hawai‘i Families, Feed More Than 93,000 Children Eligible For Free, Reduced School Meals

HONOLULU — Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D- Hawai‘i) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Hawai‘i's request to operate the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, ensuring that children in the state can continue to have access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 crisis. Authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the P-EBT program will provide approximately $16.8 million to 24,025 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households and $12.5 million to 20,147 non-SNAP households with children eligible for free and reduced price school meals.

“With thousands unemployed and schools closed, many Hawai‘i families are struggling to put food on the table, especially those in low income or underserved communities,” said Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This new program will help make sure that children who rely on school food programs are still getting the meals they need at home during the pandemic.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced all K-12 schools in Hawai‘i to close for the remainder of the academic year. While this is necessary to keep families safe, many children are now at great risk of food insecurity. In Hawai‘i, approximately 51 percent of schoolchildren - more than 93,300 - are eligible for free or reduced priced meals.

Under the P-EBT program, eligible households will receive an EBT card with the value of free school breakfast and lunch for school closures extending from March 16, 2020 through May 28, 2020, a total of 54 days. The families can use the EBT cards to purchase food. This program does not affect eligibility for or the operation of other nutrition programs that children and families may be participating in.

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