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How are free school meals being distributed?

Last Updated: 03/11/2021

School Meals

To ensure no child goes hungry during this public health emergency, the New Jersey Department of Education is working with school officials to continue distributing free meals for eligible students.

Check with your local school district to learn how they are distributing free meals.

Note: Under Executive Order No. 175, all school districts participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, must offer meals to all children, regardless of eligibility, when the school day involves at least four hours of in-person or remote instruction.

Free Summer Meals Programs Extended Through September 2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced the nationwide extension of several waivers that allow all children to continue to receive free nutritious meals this summer when schools are out of session. These flexibilities are now available through Sept. 30, 2021.

Summer meal sites are places where children, age 18 and under, can receive free meals. The meals are also available to persons over age 18 with mental or physical disabilities.

The locations, dates and times the meals are provided by participating schools, non-profits, and other organizations can be found on this interactive map by the USDA.

Special Pandemic-EBT Benefits Card

Note: P-EBT has been extended through September 30, 2021 by the federal government. At this time only benefits for the month of September 2020 have been issued. The NJ Department of Human Services is developing plans to continue issuing P-EBT benefits for October 2020 through September 2021 under the new P-EBT eligibility criteria. Additional updates will be posted below.

Special Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) benefits are being provided to children who normally receive free or reduced-price school meals.

For the 2020-2021 school year, P-EBT benefits in the amount of $99.62 per eligible child are being issued for students receiving free- or reduced-price school meals and are attending schools with a remote learning schedule of at least 5 consecutive days. (This benefit is not available for students at schools conducting classes in person or a hybrid of in-person and remote that don't meet that definition.)

No application is necessary. The majority of P-EBT eligible families participating in SNAP will receive their benefit on their household's existing Families First EBT card. All other P-EBT eligible households were mailed a P-EBT card.

If you have not received your 2020-2021 P-EBT benefits, you should contact your school to confirm the address they provided. If the address is correct or you have your mail forwarded, please wait for the card to come in the mail. If the address is incorrect, call your local county board of social services for a replacement card. More information is available on the P-EBT page including answers to FAQs.

Additional Resources

Families in need of food, cash, or other assistance, can learn about what programs are available and how to apply at New Jersey's official COVID-19 website.

To find a food bank in your community, refer to this directory.

Source: https://www.state.nj.us/education/topics/COVID19%20Frequently%20Asked%20Questions%20(FAQ)%20Related%20to%20School%20Emergency%20Preparedness%20Plans.pdf; https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562020/approved/20200511d.shtml; https://nj.gov/humanservices/news/pressreleases/2020/approved/20203006m.html; Executive Order No. 175