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Workers with Lakehouse Restaurant and Catering in Mandeville hand out meals to students Monday, March 30, 2020, at Slidell High School in Slidell. The St. Tammany Parish public school system's Grab & Go drive-through meals resumed service Monday as schools remained closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The meals are available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Slidell High and Covington High. Anyone 18 and under can get a hot lunch and a prepackaged breakfast at no cost. A student ID is not required.

As spring turns to summer in Louisiana, hundreds of thousands children lose access to nutritious school meals. This often leads to hardship as parents make hard choices about which bills to skip so their kids can eat.

About 115,000 Louisiana adults who have kids in their households — 10% of Louisiana households with children — report that their families can’t afford enough food. That’s why Pandemic-EBT, which gets grocery assistance to kids who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, will be critically important this summer.

Thanks to legislation by state Rep. Aimee Freeman, D-New Orleans, families that qualify will now receive P-EBT cards directly, skipping an application process that left out nearly 1 in 3 eligible kids last year.

As P-EBT cards arrive in families’ mailboxes, there are a few things parents should know:

Every child will receive an individual card. Some households may receive cards for different children on different days.

Cards are sent to the address on file at each child’s school. If your address isn’t up to date, you should call the school to make sure your child’s card is sent to the right place.

More benefits will loaded onto cards throughout the summer, and P-EBT will operate again next year. Hold on to your cards to make sure you can access all the benefits available to your family.

If you receive a P-EBT card and don’t want the benefit, you can use it buy groceries for donation to a food bank or pantry.

P-EBT will help feed hundreds of thousands of Louisiana kids this year, but summer hunger was a problem long before Covid. Congress should build on P-EBT’s successes by passing the Stop Child Hunger Act of 2021 to bring Summer EBT benefits nationwide. Child hunger won’t end when the pandemic’s behind us, unless we make sure all our children have the support they need.

DANNY MINTZ

director of safety net policy, Louisiana Budget Project

New Orleans