News about feeding people during Coronavirus pandemic

UPDATED JUNE 11, 2020

Here is the latest information about addressing hunger during the coronavirus crisis. Grant resources are listed at the end of this post. View more information about efforts to address hunger during the pandemic. 

SNAP recipients can now shop online

The USDA recently granted permission to New Jersey and other states to allow SNAP recipients to shop online.

SNAP recipients can now use their benefits card to shop Amazon, Walmart, ShopRite and The Fresh Grocer.

This is especially important during the COVID pandemic, allowing SNAP recipients to skip potentially harmful visits to the grocery store.

But it’s also critical during “normal” times.

Many recipients must rely on public transportation to get to the grocery store, making shopping difficult. Others have no good grocery store options nearby. And still others, especially seniors, simply lack the ability to go to the store.

Learn more at https://www.nj.gov/humanservices/njsnap/.

Summer Meals Waivers Extended

To help communities feed children this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended three key waivers through August 31, 2020. The waivers originally expired on June 30, 2020.

This includes:

Non-Congregate Feeding, which allows meals to be served outside of group settings. Meals can be distributed at a site where families pick up the meals, as well as be delivered to children’s homes.

Meal Service Times, which provides flexibility to the meal service time requirements by allowing service outside of the standard meal times.

Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children, which allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals to take home to children.

USDA also extended the Meal Pattern Flexibility’’ waiver from May 31 to June 30. This provides flexibility in meeting federal nutrition requirements. USDA will continue to evaluate its need as the situation evolves.

Area eligibility waivers allows school districts and community organizations with fewer than half of students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals to serve all children for free, provided they were operating food service during the emergency closings. 

The nationwide and state waivers have been critical in supporting the families that rely on free and reduced-price school meals during the school year.

View Food Research & Action Center’s list of all national waivers, with dates.

Pandemic EBT Approved

New Jersey received federal approval to provide SNAP (food stamps) benefits to children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. For families already receiving SNAP, additional benefits will be added to their card. For families not receiving SNAP, a card will be mailed to their home.

Each student who currently qualifies for subsidized meals will get an extra $416.10, according to published reports. No application is necessary. Nearly 600,000 New Jersey students qualify for this benefit. The state expects to deliver these benefits by June, state officials have said. 

Learn more about P-EBT in NJ.

View Food Research & Action Center’s P-EBT Resource.

Emergency SNAP Benefits Extended

USDA has granted blanket approval for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps) emergency allotments. This provides the maximum benefits to recipients who do not currently receive the maximum amount based on household size.

Normally, other factors are considered when determining the amount of benefits. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, these recipients will automatically receive the maximum amount, regardless of assets or other income factors.

The first two emergency allotments were provided in March and April. Under this latest order, those additional benefits will be extended as long as one or more of the following conditions are met:

  • Residents of the state are confirmed to have contracted Covid-19.
  • Some or all areas of the state are containment or quarantine zones.
  • Businesses have closed or significantly reduced their hours.
  • The state’s residents have experienced economic impacts due to job suspensions or losses.
  • The state’s residents have been directed to practice social distancing.
  • The state’s emergency or disaster declaration remains active.
  • The Federal Public Health Emergency Declaration remains active. 

Other changes to SNAP include:

  • Extension of SNAP benefits for six months for people whose enrollment would have expired in March, April and May,
  • Waiving the interview requirement,
  • Waiving the requirement for signatures on hard copy applications,
  • Allowing applicants to apply over the phone through county welfare offices, 
  • Temporary suspension of work requirements for single, able-bodied adults without dependents. These recipients will not lose benefits if they cannot find a job or attend work training programs.

To apply for SNAP, visit njsnap.gov.

School Meals

The USDA approved a request to allow all New Jersey school districts to provide free food to all children, even if they have fewer than 50 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

Normally, districts can only provide meals to all kids if they meet that threshold. This waiver can help deliver food to thousands more children in need during this time.

According to state officials, as of May 1, 553 school districts were providing meals at 1,230 sites throughout New Jersey. An additional 42 Summer Food Service Sponsors were providing meals at 121 sites. Districts are using various distribution methods. Parents and other caregivers should check with their local school officials. 

School meal rule waivers include:

  • Parents can pick up meals without having children physically present. 
  • Meals can be provided outside of a group (congregate) feeding setting, such as a cafeteria. Meals can be distributed at sites where families pick up meals, as well as be delivered to children’s homes.
  • Schools can serve multiple meals for multiple days and have flexibility in when meals are served.
  • Afterschool meal providers do not have to offer educational or enrichment activities when providing snacks or suppers through the National School Lunch Program or CACFP At-Risk Program.
  • School have flexibility in meeting the USDA’s “meal pattern” requirements, as needed to support access to nutritious meals when certain foods are not available due to the novel coronavirus.
  • The deadline for school districts to commit to participating in the Community Eligibility Option for school year 2020-21 has been extended to Aug. 31. This option allows districts to feed all children and reduce paperwork.
  • Certain onsite monitoring requirements for the school meals programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program, have been waived.

The waivers are in effect until June 30, 2020. We are working with state and federal officials to extend the waivers into the summer. 

All questions about school meal waivers should be directed to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture at (609) 984-0692.

WIC

  • Shortages in some food items has prompted the New Jersey Department of Health to relax the food choice requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. WIC sets fairly strict guidelines on what foods can be purchased with the benefits. Some recipients have reported having a difficult time finding the exact items approved for their voucher. Learn more about the new guidelines. 
  • WIC recipients are not required to physically report to an office or clinic to enroll, re-enroll, receive nutrition education, clinical appointments or to pick up WIC EBT cards and/or paper coupons.

WIC Gets Funding Boost

The federal stimulus package set aside $500 million for pregnant women and mothers under the WIC program, as well as $400 million in emergency aid for the Agriculture Department to purchase and distribute items to food banks and other local efforts.

Apply for WIC online.

USDA Foods Programs

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided an additional $400 million to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which provides USDA-purchased food to state agencies for distribution through food banks and local organizations. Up to $100 million of the additional funding may be used to offset higher food distribution costs due to COVID-19.

Under a Presidential Declaration of a National Emergency, FNS may approve state requests for Disaster Household Distributions for targeted areas to meet specific needs when traditional channels of food are unavailable and not being replenished on a regular basis. DHD provides boxed foods to households using existing inventories of USDA-purchased foods.

View all USDA national waivers.

Grants to Feed

Various organizations are providing grants to feed children and others during this crisis. 

The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund provides grants to existing organizations with a demonstrated track record of caring for vulnerable communities. Funds go to organizations that provide essential services to those in need and to assist those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.

Find a list of additional grants and resources.

More to explorer