Capitol Insider: Latest News on Food Insecurity Policy & Advocacy

Capitol Insider: Latest News on Food Insecurity Policy & Advocacy

by Jessica Dietrich, Policy & Government Relations Manager

 

September 22, 2021

School Year 2020-2021 Pandemic EBT Update
Last week the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Education, began issuing P-EBT benefits from the 2020-2021 school year. These benefits provide critical relief to Oklahoma families working to stretch their grocery budget while students were unable to receive meals in-person at school.

P-EBT was designed to replace the free or reduced price meals students normally would have eaten in school if it weren’t for the pandemic. The benefits for the 2020-2021 school year are based on individual student qualification. This means that even students in the same household could receive different benefit amounts if they were out of school for different periods of time. As benefits continue to arrive in mailboxes, there are important steps you can take to help.

What can I do right now?

For families:

  • Find answers to common questions and the latest information at hungerfreeok.org/pebt. This page is updated to provide helpful information and guidance.
  • Keep a close eye on your mail. New P-EBT cards will arrive soon, and the envelope will likely not be clearly marked.
  • Share this information with family and friends. The more accurate information families have, the better.

For organizations:

  • Familiarize yourself and those on your team by reading the latest information at hungerfreeok.org/pebt. This page is updated to provide helpful information and guidance.
  • Get the word out. Families are more familiar with the P-EBT program since this is not the first issuance, however this round of benefits operates in a different way from the last round and so it can be very confusing. Share information through all channels available to you.
  • Let us know what you’re hearing. If you are hearing the same issue from multiple parties, please pass that information along to HFO – we might be able to find and share more information. Email us at info@hungerfreeok.org.

What’s next?

Benefits will continue to go out during the next couple of months. Once that process is complete, families will have an opportunity to complete a form if they suspect there was an error with their P-EBT benefit amount or if they believe they qualify but never received a card. There will also likely be additional benefits issued in the future following USDA approval of additional Oklahoma P-EBT plans beyond school year 2020-2021. For more information on P-EBT, visit hungerfreeok.org/pebt.


New Food Insecurity Data Emerging
As new data begins to surface, researchers are beginning to analyze how economic turmoil and federal response programs impacted food security in the US. Early on in the pandemic, food insecurity rates were projected to skyrocket, but thanks to a myriad of federal response programs for which HFO and many of our partners advocated (both nutrition programs and non-nutrition programs alike) food insecurity rates seem to have held steady in 2020 as compared to 2019.

This new information presents an opportunity to take a longer, more intentional look at the policy solutions that can end hunger in Oklahoma and the nation as a whole. Food insecurity impacts everyone, and now is the time for us to use our collective voice to urge policymakers to take a deeper look into the root causes of food insecurity, identify and foster innovative ideas, and expand the policy solutions that are proven to work.

 

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