Starting next month, approximately one million Illinois children will receive additional federally funded food benefits, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday.
“In a pandemic, a nutritious diet is more than the fuel to get through e-learning. It’s also (necessary) for a strong immune system,” Pritzker said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “Today, we move another step closer to ending hunger for all of Illinois with a benefits program that will support approximately one million children across our state.”
Through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, eligible school children receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits on P-EBT cards that are used to purchase food at authorized retailers, which include most major grocery stores in Illinois.
Children who would have received free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program if their schools were not closed or operating with reduced hours are eligible for the benefits.
Families don’t need to apply for the benefits, according to Pritzker. “Local schools will let individual families know assistance is headed their way,” he said.
In the coming weeks, families will receive one P-EBT card per eligible child, which will be mailed to the address the school has on file for the child, according to the governor’s office.
During the 2019-2020 school year, approximately 764,000 children received approximately $259 million in nutrition benefits, according to the governor’s office.
In addition to providing benefits to more families this academic year, the program will provide more funds for each child. Families will receive $6.82 each day a child doesn’t have access to school meals, which is a 19% increase from the $5.70 daily benefit provided last year, according to the governor’s office.