By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • North Carolina officials announced this week the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Program, or P-EBT, will give eligible families an extra $250 per child to help feed their children while schools are closed.
Apparently, all families with a child enrolled in Hoke County Schools are eligible, because of how the school system’s lunch program is operating this year.
North Carolina is approved to participate in the P-EBT program, Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is working to get the program up and going, and families will begin to receive the extra benefit in coming weeks.
“So many families are in need, especially with so many out of work right now. This approval helps people get assistance faster to feed their families,” Cooper said in a statement Monday.
The program provides an EBT card to North Carolina families whose children are eligible for free and reduced price lunch at school. In the 2019-2020 school year, all children attending Hoke County Schools receive meals at no charge, Hoke County Schools Child Nutrition Director Deborah Carpenter confirmed in an email. The school system qualified as a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school district through the United States Department of Agriculture.
Children attending schools operating under the Community Eligibility Provision are eligible for the P-EBT program, NCDHHS communications manager Kelly Connor confirmed in an email.
“All children who are in the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) records as receiving free and reduced lunch will receive P-EBT benefits. This includes children who are enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision school,” Connor wrote.
Families will receive $250 in P-EBT benefits per child, provided in two installments, officials said.
If North Carolina schools stay closed past May 15, additional benefits are possible. Families can use the P-EBT benefit to buy food items at EBT authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores.
Families don’t have to apply for the P-EBT program. Eligible families already receiving Food and Nutrition Services benefits will receive the additional benefit on the existing EBT card. Eligible families who aren’t already enrolled will get a new EBT card in the mail in the next few weeks, along with a letter from NCDHHS explaining how to activate and use it.
North Carolina is one of the first four states to receive federal approval from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide P-EBT benefits, which are entirely federally funded.
The new P-EBT program is in addition to other services families may be participating in, the state announced. All families who currently receive Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) will receive the maximum amount allowed for March and April 2020 for their household size.
Hoke County Schools Child Nutrition continues preparing and delivering meals to thousands of children across the county by bus delivery.
Bulk chicken sales
Some poultry companies are helping out in a time when grocery store shelves are sparse on fresh meat. Mountaire Farms held a bulk chicken sale Saturday in Raeford, with some of the proceeds going to help the Hoke Rescue Emergency Medical Service. The drive-up, curbside service sale limited person-to-person interaction and proved so popular that they sold out of chicken.
Mountaire plans to continue holding “trailer sales” direct to customers as long as there is a demand from the community, Mountaire Farms community relations manager Mark Reif said in an email Tuesday.
“Mountaire Farms is conducting trailer sales in response to the need of the people in the community for food, specifically protein, or chicken. The food supply chain is having difficulty operating on a normal basis and therefore many grocery stores are not able to keep their stores stocked. Additionally, until restaurants are able to operate at their normal levels, the demand for chicken by restaurants and distribution centers has been impacted,” Reif wrote. “Mountaire Farms’ goal is to help the people in the community obtain chicken to feed their families at a very reduced cost to them.”
The House of Raeford also held a sale on chicken products Tuesday morning at its office on U.S. 401.
The companies are posting information about bulk chicken sales online. To check for any upcoming sales in Hoke County, visit Mountaire Farms on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MountaireFarms or House of Raeford’s website at https://www.houseofraeford.com.
Mental health help
People in North Carolina struggling with the crisis can call a free helpline to receive mental health support services. Call1-855-587-3463, 24 hours a day to be connected with help.
Healthcare workers in the state who are struggling can also reach a special mental health support line meant just for medical staffers. Call 919-226-2002.