Local, National Groups Hope for Permanent Expansion Of Pandemic Food Benefits
Local and national groups hope to see some programs developed in response to food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic made permanent.
One of those is pandemic food benefits, or P-EBT, which was used to replace food programs for students during the summer.
In response to a nationwide spike in food insecurity during the height of the pandemic, the federal government created a benefits program that sent money directly to families to help cover food costs during the summer.
Katy Bunder is the President and CEO of the Lafayette-based Food Finders Food Bank. She said the pandemic food program is vastly superior to the existing summer food service program, which requires students to visit congregate feeding locations in order to get food.
“It wouldn’t bother me if we just gave people that need food money all year round. It’s just so much more efficient,” she said.
Bunder said that because of the way the program sends money directly to families, she believes P-EBT is reaching far more people than the summer food service program did.
“We were serving roughly 60 children at an apartment complex where we knew there were 400 children living there. Only 60 would come out for lunch,” she said. “P-EBT has got to be reaching more than that.”
Zoe Neuberger is a policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a DC-based group that is advocating for P-EBT to be made permanent. She said some 700-thousand students and younger children in Indiana qualify for the program.
“We’ve created this infrastructure for a very effective program,” she said. “Let’s keep it.”
Currently, the P-EBT program is set to expire after the summer of 2022.