More than 400,000 Wisconsin children who currently qualify for free or reduced meal prices at their schools will receive temporary food benefits from the Department of Health Services, the agency announced Wednesday.
The $140 million in funds were appropriated as part of the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act" and provided by the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. The benefits will be put on cards for families to use to purchase food at grocery stores or farmers markets, pending availability.
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The funds will be used for March, April, May, and part of June, to cover the days that school would normally be in session.
“Hunger has long term, detrimental effects on children’s development. Normally we can address the nutritional needs of our most vulnerable kids through working with food programs in schools, but the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted those efforts,” said Jim Jones, Administrator of the Division of Medicaid Services that will be coordinating distribution of P-EBT benefits in Wisconsin. “Just like children are having to learn at home, they are also having to eat at home, and we know that without these resources, some families can’t make ends meet.”
DHS is reaching out to qualifying famliies directly to let them know how to access their funds. If a family already receives benefits from the state, the new funds will be added to their QUEST card or another dedicated card. Families that are not currently participating in benefits programs will have to apply separately, and DHS says it is reaching to spread the word to those families as well.