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Food benefit cards deliver boost during pandemic

  • Updated
  • 1 min to read
Fresh vegetables

Local families in need are receiving aid in the form of an extra $399 of food benefits per qualifying child.

The money is part of the Pandemic EBT program to help Washington families buy groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any Washington student who receives free or reduced-priced meals qualifies.

All students of schools that provide free lunches to all students qualify.

Jana Eaton, food services director of the Dayton School District, said some Dayton students automatically qualify for this.

“In a nutshell, all students in our elementary, K-5, can receive the card, and students in our middle and high schools can get the card if they are receiving free or reduced-price meal benefits this year,” Eaton said.

This is because all students at Dayton Elementary School receive free meals.

This isn’t the case everywhere. At Walla Walla Public Schools, low-income families must have applied for and been approved for discounted or free meals by the time schools closed in March to be eligible for Pandemic EBT benefits.

Low-income families with students who do not receive free or reduced-price meals can call their school to apply for the program. After doing so, they may qualify for partial benefits through the Pandemic EBT program.

If a qualifying family already receives food benefits through EBT, no action is needed. The extra benefit will be loaded on to a family’s existing EBT card.

However, action must be taken by families who do not receive EBT food benefits, even if their students receive free or reduced-price meals at school. These families must apply for the benefit at or by calling 877-501-2233.

The Pandemic EBT program is in addition to any other program a school district or other organization may offer to feed students during the summer and does not replace any such program.

For example, students in Walla Walla can get meals through the district’s summer meal program and still qualify for the Pandemic EBT program.

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Jeremy Burnham can be reached at or 509-551-8896.


Jeremy Burnham covers education and Columbia County for the Union-Bulletin. He is a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University, where he studied journalism, and is an Eastern Eagle fanatic.