All Upshur County students qualify for free meals through pandemic benefit card

BUCKHANNON – A little more help is on the way for Upshur County students and their families.

Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus said last week that every student enrolled in Upshur County Schools qualifies for a Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) Card. Stankus said the cards will be issued to all families with students enrolled in Upshur County Schools to assist with purchasing nutrition meals.

Stankus stressed the importance of students continuing to receive nutritious meals while social distancing from their schools, as well as through the summer months.

“We are still delivering meals (breakfast and lunch) out to each bus stop and getting meals to the students is very important to us,” Stankus said. “We deliver to remote areas such as Palace Valley, Selbyville, Audra State Park and Hemlock Ridge. Those are the places where our students live – many communities are setting up feeding areas in central areas, which is great, but we are determined to figure out a way to take that food to the bus stops because many of our families who need the food the most do not have transportation.”

Along with the P-EBT card, Stankus said the school system has written a couple of grants. She said they are asking for help paying for fuel and bus driver salaries because it’s important to deliver food to students throughout the summer until school begins for the 2020-2021 school year.

“The P-EBT cards will be mailed to the families. Every student who is enrolled in Upshur County Schools will be eligible for that card,” Stankus said. “The card includes $5.70 per day for each student to purchase food.”

Stankus said if families already receive benefits, that amount will be added on to the card automatically.

She said this benefit is made possible because all Upshur County Students are eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which qualifies all Upshur County students to eat free.

“This makes all students eligible – families do not need to do anything to receive this card,” Stankus said. “Our board made the commitment for students to be a part of the CEP. They picked up the price tag for a while because the Upshur County BOE believes it is important to provide those basic needs to all our children. This is the third- or fourth-year Upshur County Schools participated in the CEP.”

Upshur BOE President Dr. Tammy Samples said they committed for one year in the beginning.

“We wanted to make sure we could do it financially,” Samples said. “It turned out we could do it, so we did.”

Stankus said feeding students has always been a priority of the Upshur County BOE.

“We want to take care of the needs of our children,” she said. “We have clothes closets in every school. We have food pantries in the schools and a backpack program at every single school.”

Stankus said the cards will help all families during the pandemic.

“All families have challenges – we don’t know when that comes up,” Stankus said. “Every single one of our students will receive that benefit.”
Upshur County Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison said some students who may not have qualified before the pandemic could be in need now.

“This is part of who we are and what we do. It is impacting a lot of families, and I think this will make a big difference,” Harrison said.

“Families who would normally have an average income could have been out of work for the last two months,” Stankus said. “We don’t know the impact that has on food security. We are really pleased to be able to do that.”

Stankus said the card will provide a little more than $300 per child and can be used wherever EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards are accepted. Families who already receive SNAP benefits will receive their money directly on the card. Those who do not receive benefits will receive a card automatically in the mail.

A press release from Upshur County Schools said the P-EBT benefits will be sent in two waves with the first wave going to students whose families receive SNAP, West Virginia WORKS or Medicaid benefits through the W.Va. Department of Health and Human Resources.

If parents no longer have or have lost their SNAP EBT card, they may contact the DHHR by calling 1-877-716-1212 to request a replacement card.

The second wave of the of the P-EBT cards will include students whose families do not receive SNAP, WV WORKS or Medicaid. These will be mailed to the most recent address and guardian name provided to the schools. All eligible families are expected to receive the P-EBT benefits before the end of June.

Additional information about the P-EBT cards is available at the W.Va. Department of Education website https://wvde.us/covid19/wv-pebt/. Questions may also be directed to Upshur County Child Nutrition Director Cynthia Nesselroade by calling 304-472-5480 ext. 1015.

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