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LCPS families automatically enrolled in new food program

Participation by Lenoir County Public Schools in a USDA program that provides no-cost breakfast and lunch to all students in the district during the school year also qualifies those students to receive additional nutritional assistant through the federal government’s new Pandemic – Electronic Benefits Transfer program.

The program, known as P-EBT, is designed to help families purchase food for their children while schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, supplementing meals distributed by the school district at its five emergency feeding sites.

“This benefit is not a substitution in any way but instead is an extra benefit to help with nourishing our students at home during this pandemic,” Danelle Smith, LCPS’s child nutrition director, said. “It is available to all students in all of our 17 schools.”

Families of all LCPS students are automatically enrolled in the program because the school district operates its breakfast and lunch program under the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which is available to school districts with a high percentage of low-income students.

CEP status, which LCPS was the first in the state to secure about five years ago, allows students to receive meals at school without being charged for them and without families having to ask for help with the cost of the meals.

Similarly, because of information sharing between the school district, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), families of all LCPS students are already identified as eligible for P-EBT and do not have to apply.

Families already receiving benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will receive P-EBT benefits on their existing EBT card. Other families will receive a P-EBT card in the mail, sent to the address in a student’s enrollment record. (To correct an out-of-date address, parents should contact their school and be prepared to provide evidence of change of address.)

P-EBT will be provided in two installments, according to DHHS – in late May and late June. Benefits are scaled according to the number of eligible children, ranging from $176 per installment to $1,162. For example, an LCPS family with three children enrolled in school will receive $581.40 for their first installment and $530.10 for their second installment

The P-EBT card may be used to purchase food at EBT authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores. 

Families that do not wish to use P-EBT benefits may destroy the EBT card when received or may return the card to the P-EBT vendor. There is no need to notify DPI or DHHS if a family chooses not to accept the P-EBT benefit. Should families reconsider and choose to use the benefits, they will be available for 365 days and the family may contact the call center at 1-888-622-7328 to request a replacement card.

More information about P-EBT is available on DHHS’s website

Families may also call the state’s 2-1-1 hotline or call1-888-892-1162 from any phone to inquire about available resources. The call is free, confidential and available in any language.