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Tennessee offers supplemental food money for students through DHS

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Johnson County is an area below the poverty line. That is why students here receive free meals at school. COVID-19 has caused some road bumps in the situation. Instances such as virtual learning days can cause students to miss out on much-needed meals. The Department of Human Services (DHS) launched a program called the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program to help fill the gap when it comes to food. The program is accepted and treated like normal EBT.

“We understand just how important the meals your children receive at our school are to your family,” the Johnson County School System said in a statement to local parents. “We also understand the unexpected hardships you may have faced this school year during the days when those meals have not been available due to virtual learning.”

This program is not new but benefits are still available. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program is in the process of its third payout backdating back to October 2020. Any child is eligible that receives free or reduced lunch, which includes all Johnson County students under the Community Eligibility Provision, and who did not receive these meals because school is out of in-person learning or on reduced hours because of COVID-19 for at least five consecutive days.

Johnson County prides itself in being the only school nearby to maintain in-person learning throughout the pandemic, only having a few small interruptions. Although COVID-19 numbers seem to be decreasing, the future is still unclear. Having this information in mind could be a godsend if schools are forced to close.

Johnson County students do not need to fill out an application or provide any documents to see if they qualify. Simply visit the TDHS P-EBT Parent Portal to confirm the right address and child are on file or to decline the service. For a more detailed walkthrough, visit the TDHS Youtube channel and view the Parent Portal video. If your child is not listed on the portal, either they do not currently qualify or the school has not submitted information yet.

Find out more details about the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program at fns.usda.gov, tn.gov/humanservices, or call the P-EBT Hotline at 833-496-0661.