Michigan to provide children with funding to replace missed school meals

More than 800,000 Michigan children who receive food assistance benefits at school will continue to receive those benefits to replace missed school meals, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced on Monday.

Families eligible for free or reduced lunch at school will receive EBT cards in the mail. Cards will be loaded with an amount of funds dependent on how many days of school meals the child will miss due to school closures or hybrid learning. Families that already receive nutritional benefits will receive the funds on the EBT cards they already have.

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the MDHHS, said in a statement:

“Providing families with easy access to the benefits and services they need is a top priority of MDHHS that has become even more vital as all of us deal with the impact of the pandemic. Pandemic-EBT is incredibly important to children and families whose normal school routines — which for many include access to school meals — have been disrupted by COVID-19.”

The provided benefits will be retroactive to September. Funding will be provided through the federal government.

Dr. Michael Rice, the state superintendent, believes the move could help prevent food insecurity in Michigan:

“This year has been very challenging for students and their families on many levels. In addition to the over 200 million meals provided to students in local schools and mobile and stationary feeding operations across the state, the P-EBT benefits offer an extra and important measure of food security for our families in need during the pandemic.”

Food insecurity has long been a problem in Michigan. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, about 1.3 million Michiganders were food insecure. That includes one in eight residents of the upper peninsula who are food insecure. The number has grown to 1.9 million since then. Governor Gretchen Whitmer formed the Food Security Council in August in response to rising food insecurity.

 

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Last year, the 2-1-1 hotline received a surge in inquiries about food pantries, according to the council report. In response to the COVID-19 relief bill passed earlier this month, Michiganders receiving SNAP benefits saw a 15% increase in benefit amount.