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USDA Approves Program to Feed Kids in North Dakota
North Dakota Ag Connection - 05/11/2020

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont have been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed by President Trump, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures.

Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Vermont will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, Maine had approximately 77,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 42% of children in participating schools. North Dakota had approximately 38,000 children eligible for free-and reduced-priced lunch, or nearly 29% of children in participating schools. West Virginia had approximately 231,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or nearly 86% of children in participating schools. Vermont had approximately 44,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or approximately 52% of children in participating schools. Previous announcements of approvals for Pandemic EBT include: Michigan, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Arizona, Illinois, Alabama, Wisconsin, California, Connecticut, Kansas, Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware and Oregon.

Under FFCRA, States have the option to submit a plan to the Secretary of Agriculture for providing these benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. State agencies may operate Pandemic EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.

The implementation of Pandemic EBT is in line with USDA's commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and to keep kids fed when schools are closed. USDA is working with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators can continue to feed children. This latest action complements previously-announced flexibilities for the Child Nutrition programs that:

- Allow parents and guardians to pick up meals to bring home to their kids;

- Temporarily waive meal times requirements to make it easier to pick up multiple-days' worth of meals at once;

- Allow meals be served in non-congregate settings to support social distancing;

- Waive the requirement that afterschool meals and snacks served through certain programs be accompanied by educational activities to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus; and

- Allow states, on an individual state-by-state basis, to serve free meals to children in all areas, rather than only those in areas where at least half of students receive free or reduced-price meals.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American's agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.

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