Deadline approaching to apply for Pandemic-EBT meal benefits

Only about half of an estimated 3.8 million California children eligible to receive Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits are signed up or have received their benefit cards, according to the Department of Social Services. To ensure that all children have access to healthy meals, the deadline to apply has been extended to July 15.

Applications can be completed at

P-EBT provides food benefits for children who would normally receive free or reduced-price meals at school. Through the program, eligible families may get up to $365 per child to purchase food. Those who receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits have already received their cards, department officials said in an email.

School districts throughout California have scrambled to continue serving meals to students after school campuses closed and into the summer, implementing new delivery systems that allowed for social distancing.

And more students than ever need nutritional assistance. Between mid-March and mid-May, the California Employment Development Department had processed 4.7 million unemployment benefit claims, representing an unemployment rate of close to 25 percent. Just two months prior, the statewide unemployment rate had been slightly more than 5 percent.

To help offset the impact of COVID-19 on child hunger, the United States Department of Agriculture announced on June 25 that it was extending three key waivers from rules for school meal programs until June 30, 2021, so that schools can continue feeding students as they conclude summer break and ready for fall. The waivers address non-congregate feeding, parent pickup and meal times.

With many students still receiving school meals, officials are being encouraged to reach out to families about the P-EBT program. To aid in the process, CDSS has provided a number of informational resources: