(The Center Square) – Beginning next month, one million Illinois children will receive federally funded food benefits, valued at $110 million per month.
In the coming weeks, families will receive one EBT card per eligible child, and the cards can be used to purchase food items at authorized retailers, which includes most major grocery stores in Illinois. Families will receive $6.82 for each day a child did not have access to school meals, a 19% increase over the 2019-2020 school year.
The funding will be distributed by the Illinois Department of Human Services in partnership wit the Illinois State Board of Education to students who are eligible for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer support.
At a news conference Tuesday in Springfield, Illinois Department of Human Services director Grace Hou said Illinois is in select company.
“We are only one of 16 states to receive the federal approval for this school year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Hou.
Pam Molitorus, the executive director of the Central Illinois Food Bank, said the coronavirus pandemic has placed a burden on some families.
“This brings one more resource to our families that are struggling,” Molitorus said. “We’ve got parents that are teaching their kids at home, and we have parents that do not know how they are going to get to a distribution because they are teaching their kids at home.”
According to the ISBE, fewer than 200 school districts serving less than 200,000 students are currently able to offer in-person instruction.
“Research shows that children who are hungry are not able to focus and learn,” said state Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala. “Schools have served more than 113 million meals to students since the pandemic began, and the P-EBT builds on this care and commitment to ensure all Illinois children have the nutritional needs met.”