Thousands of SC students to get free food help

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Thousands of K-12 students in South Carolina will soon get help to buy food.

A one-time Electronic Benefits Transfer card, worth $330, will be mailed to students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch at their schools between March 16 and June 3, when schools were closed due to COVID-19.

About 467,000 students are expected to receive the funds, the S.C. Department of Social Services said. Extended school closures during the pandemic have “exacerbated concerns about families’ food and financial security during this time,” the agency said.

“No child in South Carolina should have to go hungry,” State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said in the release. “The Pandemic EBT program will help ensure our most vulnerable students and their families have the resources needed to put food on the table during the summer so they are healthy and ready to learn when schools re-start in the fall.”

The Pandemic EBT funding is available to students at both public and private schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, The State newspaper said.

The amount of money on the EBT cards is equal to the daily school meal rate for each child — $5.70 — multiplied by the number of days schools were closed this spring, a total of 58 days. If a student became eligible for free or reduced lunch at some point in the middle of those 58 days, they will receive a prorated amount on their card.

The cards are expected to be mailed between July 20-24. They will be sent to students’ home addresses that are on file with their school districts.

For students whose families already receive supplemental nutrition assistance, their one-time pandemic meal funding will be added to their regular EBT card for July, rather than mailed as a separate card.

Recipients will have a year to use the funds. Families who qualify for the new benefit but do not receive a card in the mail by Aug. 15 should email PEBTBenefits@dss.sc.gov.