Vegetables at a farmers market in San Diego County. Courtesy San Diego County Water Authority

An extra benefit is available from the state to help low-income families buy groceries while schools are closed. Applicants need to act quickly, however, as the deadline to sign up is tomorrow.

Pandemic food benefits provide up to $365 per child to purchase food for children who are eligible for their school’s free and reduced-cost lunch program.

In some San Diego County school districts, all students are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch because of a high percentage underprivileged families struggling to make ends meet.

Funds are issued with a Pandemic EBT, or P-EBT, card.

P-EBT cards works like debit cards to buy groceries at most stores and farmers markets, and online at Amazon and Walmart. It can’t be used to pay for restaurant meals or fast food. Recipients have one year to spend the money.

Families that received CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits prior to school districts shutting down due to the COVID-19 crisis were automatically enrolled and should already be using the extra funds. Families that applied for these benefits after students were sent home to start distance learning are set to receive P-EBT cards soon.

But families whose children are eligible for the free and reduced-cost lunch program and are not currently receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits need to apply for a P-EBT card by July 15.

For more information and to apply, visit the Information About P-EBT web page.

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