PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The fact that schools are closed during the pandemic makes learning much more difficult. That is compounded by the fact so many students rely on schools for meals.
Last week state officials announced Oregon would provide more than 351,000 kids with benefits to replace the meals they get at their schools through SNAP benefits or an Oregon Trail Card for those without SNAP.
All Oregon families with kids who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals will get the benefits they would have received if school was still in session, the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Department of Education said. The authorization came from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
Each eligible household will get $5.70 in benefits for each normal school day — the cost of a breakfast and lunch — through June. Benefits are retroactive to March 16 and each eligible family will get a total of $384 per child, pro-rated from March 16 through the end of the school year.
Those benefits will be automatically deposited to an existing SNAP account in late May, officials said. Students who get free or reduced-meal pricing but don’t have SNAP will get an Oregon Trail Card in the mail.
Also, families who have lost a lot of income can still apply for these benefits.
“We have so many people thinking they need to apply,” said Damasita Sanchez, the school nutrition program manager for the state of Oregon. “If your child was known at school and was getting meals for no charge, we will be collecting your information from your school.”
Families can use their EBT card for online food purchases through Amazon and Walmart, though delivery fees aren’t included. They can also use the double-up food program, which doubles up to $10 of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Schools deliver food in different ways
Schools in Oregon and Washington have a lot of flexibility in how they meet the need. Food workers in the Camas School District are preparing about 550 meals a day. Families can either use a daily curbside pickup or, for those without transportation, the food is delivered to different neighborhoods by school bus.
“The first couple weeks there was a little bit of planning and everyone trying to get it down. But everyone comes here and wants to be here, wants to serve the children, wants to serve the community,” said Tamara Westmoreland with the Camas School District. “It’s an honor. I’m very proud to be involved.”