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Program That Provides Food To School-Age Children Could End Soon If Congress Doesn't Extend It

A program designed to help school-age children access food during school closures caused by the pandemic is set to expire at the end of September if Congress does not take action to extend it.

The Pandemic EBT or P-EBT program provides EBT cards directly to families who receive free or reduced-price meals. The progressive think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the program has delivered some $7-10 billion in food assistance to up to 30 million school children. It is calling on Congress to extend the benefits and to take other action to reduce pandemic-related hunger.

In a conference call Thursday afternoon, Sherrie Tussler with the Hunger Task Force said the program does more than reduce hunger.

“It keeps people safely indoor,” Tussler said. “It reduces disease transmission, it eliminates hardship for parents who are now homeschooling children and who now have little time to venture out for school-supplied bag lunches.”

During the same call, Dr. Megan Sandel with the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center, said she is seeing much higher rates of children with signs of malnutrition.

“What I see every single day from the pandemic is amazingly increased numbers of severely underweight children coming to our clinic and parents really panicked about how they're going to find enough food.”

In Maine, a new analysis by the organization finds that 14,900 school-age children live in a household that sometimes or often didn't have enough to eat in the last week.

Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.