Pa. DHS launches a hotline to help families who are waiting for money to cover meals missed under National School Lunch Program

Written by on October 25, 2021

Pa. DHS launches a hotline to help families who are waiting for money to cover meals missed under the National School Lunch Program

By Gabriela Martinez / WITF

October 25, 2021

Food service workers pre-package hundreds of free school lunches in plastic bags on Thursday, July 15, 2021, at the Liechty Middle School in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

When schools closed or went hybrid due to the pandemic, low-income students missed free or reduced-price meals available through the National School Lunch Program.

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A federal program is supposed to help families who had to pay for those meals at home but many still don’t have the money.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is launching a live hotline to help families who are waiting for money to cover meals missed under the program.

Those cards are loaded with money students can use to buy meals at school.

Ali Fogarty, communications director at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, says the agency has been receiving requests through a web form.

“Now with the live hotline, there may still be some delays and people calling obviously, depending on call volume, but we’re hoping that that can help people get answers a little bit quicker by actually talking to somebody,” Fogarty said.

The department said it has received about 30,000 requests to reissue cards that were lost or never delivered due to delays in the mail or envelopes thrown out by mistake. DHS said that some of the cards sent out were never activated.

“If families have already received a new card or they did get their card in the school districts, they don’t have to use the new card. They can continue using their card that’s already activated,” Fogarty said.

DHS is reissuing EBT cards for 21 school districts, including six in the mid-state.

More than a million children in Pennsylvania are eligible for school lunch benefits.

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