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Additional Food Relief for Students During COVID-19 School Closures

News Release

San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced that San Francisco students can receive hundreds of dollars in nutrition assistance to help prevent childhood hunger while schools are closed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Families with children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals can receive additional support to purchase groceries through California’s Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program (P-EBT).

The San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) are informing families of the availability of this new emergency benefit. Children who participate in both free or reduced-price school meals and public benefit assistance from HSA will receive P-EBT cards in the mail. P-EBT benefits do not replace any emergency school meal programs or CalFresh. Children who receive P-EBT may continue to pick up SFUSD’s free grab and go meals from 24 locations throughout the city.

Families with P-EBT eligible children that receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits do not need to apply for P-EBT benefits and will receive a P-EBT card of up to $365 for each eligible child. Cards will arrive in the mail from the State starting this week through the end of the month. Other families receiving free or reduced-price meal benefits but not on public benefit assistance will need to complete a short online application, which will open on May 22. For families that do not receive the P-EBT card in the mail, the deadline to apply is June 30, 2020.

“Many San Francisco students depend on the meals they get at school for their nutrition, and with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to find other ways to make sure children and youth in our city people have enough to eat,” said Mayor Breed. “This assistance from the state will provide much-needed food security for some of our most vulnerable residents, and goes hand in hand with the other emergency food programs being offered by the School District and the Human Services Agency’s ongoing work to connect people to other public benefits like CalFresh.”

School meal programs play a crucial role in childhood nutrition and encouraging healthy eating habits. While the decision to close schools can help slow the spread of coronavirus, the closures disproportionately impact low-income children who rely on free or reduced-price school meals to prevent hunger. P-EBT will help meet the needs of children most vulnerable to food insecurity. More than half of SFUSD students, approximately 35,000 children, qualify for free and reduced-price school meals.

“As a school district we want to ensure that during this difficult time families continue to receive the resources they rely on,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “SFUSD has provided over 800,000 free meals to children and youth since closing school buildings in March. This additional resource provides much-needed relief to families and we’re dedicated to making sure families know what is available to them. No child should be without nourishing meals.”

“Thousands of San Francisco families rely on free school meals as a lifeline to prevent hunger,” said Trent Rhorer, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Services Agency. “With the switch to distance learning this year, Pandemic EBT can help put food on the table for our most disadvantaged students who are at risk of missing nutritious school meals. This is especially important for families struggling with transportation or parents who continue to work and can’t easily make it to free meal sites.”

The California Department of Social Services has identified roughly 3.8 million children who could qualify for P-EBT. This new benefit provides a solution to feed students who were eligible to receive free or reduced-price school meals before the pandemic, as well as those who are newly eligible. P-EBT is used like a debit card to purchase food at grocery stores, farmers' markets, and retail outlets that accept EBT for online purchases.

P-EBT benefits are available to all eligible California children, no matter their immigration status. P-EBT is not the same as CalFresh or food stamps. This is an emergency state food assistance program and is similar to other benefits that United States immigration officials do not consider for public charge purposes.

For more information on P-EBT in San Francisco, visit sfhsa.org/p-ebt or call 311. SFUSD families may contact Student Nutrition Services with questions by emailing SchoolLunch@sfusd.edu or by calling (415) 749-3604.

To apply for P-EBT online starting May 22, 2020, visit https://ca.p-ebt.org/

For additional information about food resources, the Emergency Operation Center’s Feeding Unit has launched a public webpage at sf.gov/get-food-resources and 311 resources to help people navigate their food options, including community providers and public benefits.

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Mayor’s Office of Communications