The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program will not be available for the 2023-2024 school year.
A small amount of P-EBT funds will be provided to summer students who attended traditional in-person classes this year and were approved for National School Lunch Program free or reduced-price school meals.
At the end of the summer, the P-EBT program will be discontinued with the ending of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The temporary program provides food assistance benefits to eligible families in light of the pandemic, especially since school lunches were not available while schools were closed or online.
Benefits are awarded on an EBT card, which operates similarly to a debit card. The cards can be used at most major grocery stores.
Cynthia Ervin, assistant director of food and nutrition within NCDHHS, said the P-EBT program ensured that children and their families got nutritious meals, even when not attending school due to the pandemic.
“The P-EBT has served North Carolina's children very well,” Ervin said. “We are so happy to be in partnership with the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Health and Human Services in this endeavor to make sure that these kids get this critical need met through the P-EBT.”
The program has provided meals for over 1.6 million children since the start of the pandemic.
“It is definitely a great program for families, and I think the federal government and others are looking for other ways,” Ervin said. “But they are kind of making those decisions as we go, and then states will have to sign on them.”