Students unable to receive P-EBT cards

Free meals offered to students due to school’s inability to distribute benefit cards

Free breakfast provided by school

Janessa Mosqueda and Abe Morales

For most students and their families, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed various new challenges. Many families of students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch now rely on their school or local government to receive food benefits. In March 2021, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards were mailed to qualifying students. 

P-EBT cards provide students with $6.82 per day, designated for buying food, so long as the student qualifies for the free or reduced-priced school lunch program. These cards are only a temporary benefit that were distributed by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to receive these benefits, the student’s school needs to be an active participant in the National School Lunch Program. LT does not participate in this program.

“Families were asking why they haven’t received their P-EBT card,” Latinx Liaison Ibet Herrera said. “At first I didn’t have the answer, so I asked and I was informed that LT is self-funded for its lunch programs. It was hard to tell families that LT doesn’t participate in the program.” 

The National School Lunch Program is a meal program funded by the U.S. government. Schools are able to provide students with reduced price or free meals depending on family income. 

“Not participating in the program gives us more flexibility in the support we provide to families, and it gives us more flexibility in our nutrition and food options in each cafeteria,” Principal Brian Waterman said. 

The choice to not be a part of the National School Lunch Program pertains to a broader range of issues than just lunches, Waterman said. If LT were to participate in the National School Lunch Program, the guidelines under the program would need to be followed when working with families in need of financial aid. LT is allowed more flexibility and can set their own guidelines with financial aid since the school is not a participant in the program.

“In the National School Lunch Program, there are certain qualifications in terms of income, and if you meet that qualification, great; if you don’t, you cannot participate in the program,”  LT Business Manager Brian Stachacz said. “With more flexibility, we’re able to work with families who don’t necessarily qualify for the program, and we’re able to provide some additional services that way.”

In place of the P-EBT cards, LT offers grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for any student who wants one, Stachacz said. On weekdays, students are able to go North or South Campus between 8 and 10 a.m., and there is no limit on the amount of food a student can take.