New Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) Legislation Provides Opportunity to Expand SNAP Benefits

According to Hunger Free America, “states can give extra food purchasing dollars to all low-income families with children in closed schools on ATM-like cards that they can use at food stores and farmers markets, reducing hunger and bolstering employment in the retail food sector.”

From the USDA Food And Nutrition Service COVID-19 Page: As a result of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, children who would receive free or reduced price meals if not for school closures are eligible to receive assistance under this provision. USDA is providing guidance to state agencies on plan requirements in order to receive approval. (Guidance for States on Pandemic EBT

Each state has the option to participate in the Pandemic EBT.

For information from Hunger Free America and The Education Trust about how state leaders can advance P-EBT Implementation in Alabama, please consult the document below:

Add links to information on your social media account to spread awareness:

https://edtru.st/ChildHungerCoronavirusToolKit

The Alabama Power Foundation and ABC Trust Pledge $1 Million to Assist with COVID-19 Relief

The Alabama Power Foundation and the Alabama Business Charitable Trust Fund have committed $1 million to assist community partners and other non-profits with COVID-19 relief efforts. They will focus services on addressing food insecurity, in addition to energy assistance and medical and hygiene needs.

For more information: https://alabamanewscenter.com/2020/03/19/alabama-power-foundation-abc-trust-pledge-1-million-to-support-covid-19-relief-efforts/

WFP: How to Minimize the Impact of Coronavirus on Food Security

“The good news is that this pandemic does not necessarily have to turn into a food security crisis,” Husain says, warning that “The extent to which the COVID-19 will affect food markets is conditional upon countries staying calm even in the face of supply chain hiccups and not resorting to protective beggar-thy-neighbour policies.”

Read more in the World Food Programme article by Simona Beltrami: https://insight.wfp.org/how-to-minimize-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-food-security-be2fa7885d7e

Recent Updates to School Meal Programs, SNAP, and WIC in Response to COVID-19

From Laura Lester, Executive Director of the Alabama Food Bank Association:

We wanted to send out an update on what’s happening in Alabama in response to the Covid-19 emergency and our anti-hunger efforts. We know y’all are also overwhelmed with work, and that the situation is changing rapidly, but hopefully this can provide some guidance for where we are right now. This email is intended for agencies working on hunger issues – but please know that there are several resources available for those working on other policy issues like Medicaid expansion, TANF, paid medical leave and unemployment benefits. Please visit Alabama Arise (www.alarise.org) for more information on these vital programs. Also know that the information provided is to the best of our knowledge at the moment – because of the challenges some of the resources provided might not be 100% accurate but please know that the state’s response to the epidemic is a moving target and updates may lag a few days behind policy changes.

Replacing school meals 

The Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option (through the National School Lunch Program) are available to provide meals through school closures. Schools and other Summer Food sponsors (which can include local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations) are currently applying with the state to provide meals to children through these two “summer” programs. The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) has applied for the following waivers to allow sites to safely distribute meals to children during this crisis:

  • Sites must operate in a non-congregate setting – meaning meals can be handed out and not consumed on site.
  • Two meals per child, per day are allowed in any combination with the exception of lunch and supper AND multiple meals can be distributed for multiplate days (for more information contact Danielle Turk at dturk@alsde.edu /334-694-4681 or Kim Ruggles at kruggles@alsde.edu.  )
  • Meals may be served at sites with 50% or greater free and reduced lunch enrollment, or if a site does not meet the 50% or more qualification, a school or sponsor must target households of enrolled children who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals through their meal distribution indicated on the online application.

The biggest challenge is helping families find open sites in their area. Most school systems that are currently providing meals have done a great job getting the word out to families. The problem is how often this information is changing – often daily. AL.com put together a list last week, but it is not complete and likely already out of date. Many school systems are planning to stop serving over their scheduled spring break, and because they don’t know if the schools will reopen, they aren’t able to commit beyond that time. ALSDE runs a site to help folks find existing summer meal sites called breakforaplate.com but the Department of Education is working overtime trying to enter all of the information into the system. It will not be complete for a week or two, but it will likely still be the site with the most up to date information. 

SNAP

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides temporary new authority and broad flexibility for the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) to adapt the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) program to address many people’s food needs during the current public health emergency and economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In Alabama DHR is working to implement the following temporary changes to the SNAP program:

  • Suspension of work requirement. The Act includes a nationwide, temporary suspension of SNAP’s three-month time limit on benefits for adults under age 50 without children in their SNAP household.
  • The legislation appears to authorize USDA to provide an additional allotment to all households up to the amount of the maximum benefit for their household size. For now, USDA is interpreting the provision to allow states to raise SNAP benefits for each household only up to the maximum benefit for the household size. Alabama DHR is working hard to implement this increase for families currently not receiving the maximum amount of benefits. These benefits are approved to be increased during March and April for now.  
  • The Act allows states to provide meal-replacement benefits through SNAP or another mechanism for households with children who attend a school that’s closed and who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals. States may provide supplemental SNAP benefits for households already receiving SNAP, and may make “issuances” to households with school-age children who are not already enrolled in SNAP. The best way to implement this rule is still an open question, and we will continue to update you as we learn more from USDA and DHR.  
  • Currently DHR is looking at other administrative changes to the SNAP program to help applicants. As these are approved we will let folks know immediately.  

WIC (Women, Infants and Children)  The WIC program, operated by the Alabama Department of Public Health,  provides specific high-nutrition foods for pregnant and breast-feeding women; infants; and children under the age of 5. There are income limits but they’re higher than those for SNAP. A family of three can have an annual income up to $39,461 and still be WIC eligible.  A list of the foods that can be purchased with a WIC EBT card can be found here https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/wic/assets/approvedfoodsbrochure.pdf,  

Because WIC is a health program, it normally requires a face-to-face meeting with WIC staff and a physical exam to determine if a health condition (like anemia) exists which can be addressed by improved nutrition.

The Department of Public Health has applied for, and received, a waiver of those face-to-face visits and exams so applicants for WIC can receive benefits without having to go to a local health office.

There has been some concern in response to anecdotal reports that WIC approved foods are not available on some store shelves, creating problems for recipients.  States are allowed to request waivers allowing recipients to substitute similar items for WIC approved items. Alabama has not requested a waiver to do this at this time, because Public Health believes that the WIC food choices are wide enough that recipients will still be able to spend all their benefits.

Additional Resources

USDA posted guidance on Pandemic EBT; meal delivery; and nationwide waivers on meal times, after school activities and non-congregate feeding. They also posted SNAP guidance on time limits and emergency allotments.  https://www.fns.usda.gov/disaster/pandemic/covid-19.


EPA: Disinfectants For Use Against COVID-19

In a follow-up to yesterday’s post, we want to help equip all Alabamans assisting with the provision of food to their local communities to be aware of best practices as they prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and remain healthy while serving others.

The EPA has posted a list of products that can be used effectively against the COVID-19 virus:

For ongoing updates of this list, please visit the EPA page here: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2

USDA Food and Nutrition Service COVID-19 Page

Please visit this resource for the most up-to-date information from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service regarding COVID-19:

https://www.fns.usda.gov/disaster/pandemic/covid-19

Federal Child Nutrition Programs

Congregate Meal Waivers: FNS has approved waivers from all 50 states, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, enabling Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) sponsors to serve meals in a non-congregate setting and at school sites during school closures related to the coronavirus.

Nationwide Meal Times Waiver: FNS has provided a nationwide waiver to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Nationwide Non-congregate Feeding Waiver: FNS has provided a nationwide waiver of congregate feeding requirements to support access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Nationwide Afterschool Activity Waiver: FNS has provided a nationwide waiver to support access to nutritious meals and snacks while minimizing potential exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Alabama Waiver Status

Best Practices for Food Banks During COVID-19

In light of the many efforts of local food banks and non-profit organizations to provide food to vulnerable citizens, we would like to share information about best practices for operating food distribution centers.

Please consult the following resources for considerations and recommendations:

The Link Serves as Lead Emergency Food Coordinator for Cullman County

Photo Credit: W.C. Mann for the Cullman Tribune

The Link has been taking the lead in Cullman County to make sure residents have access to food during COVID-19 social distancing measures. In addition to organizing food pick-up opportunities for their community, they are collaborating with local restaurants to provide meals to residents.

May 25th – Milo’s will be giving away 100 free boxed meals to anyone from 10:30 am till noon (or as long as supplies last) at

The Link of Cullman County, 708 9th Street SE, Cullman, AL  35055

Check out the Cullman Tribune article about their efforts here!