The ABCs of Pandemic EBT

Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) is a federal program to help families of school-age children buy groceries when schools are closed because of the pandemic. This assistance comes through the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The P-EBT card works like a debit card to purchase groceries anywhere EBT benefits (also known as food stamps) are accepted.

You do not have to apply but your child must be approved to receive free or reduced-price meals at school. So you must complete an application with your school district, if you have not done so already or if your school does not provide free meals to all kids during normal times (CEP schools).

Once issued, eligible New Jersey students and their families will receive money on a new or existing EBT card to help fill the school meals gap. If your household is already receiving SNAP (aka food stamps), you should receive the extra benefit automatically on your EBT card. Families not enrolled in SNAP will receive a new card. It is unclear at this time when new benefits will be issued. (January 2021)

The first round of P-EBT covered students from March 2020 when schools first closed due to the pandemic, through June 2020. Most families have already received this assistance.

P-EBT benefits for September 2020 continue to be issued for students who were eligible for free- or reduced-price school meals as of June 2020 and were attending schools with a remote learning schedule of at least five consecutive days in September. 

At this time, the state human services department is developing plans for distributing P-EBT for October 2020 through September 2021. As of January 13, 2021, no specific date has been announced for when these funds will be sent to families.

For the most current information, visit DHS’s P-EBT webpage.

Your school district should have provided your children’s names, dates of birth and mailing addresses to the New Jersey Department of Human Services (NJDHS)

While many families got these benefits over the summer and into the fall, some did not.  

If, for any reason, the NJ Department of Human Services did not have your child’s name in its system by September 30,  then you did not receive P-EBT benefits when schools were closed from March through June. 

Visit the NJ DHS’s P-EBT web page for more information.

Your school district must participate in the National School Lunch Program and your child must be approved to receive free or reduced-price school meals. Even if your district is providing free meals to all students because of the pandemic, you should still complete the application. Contact your school for a school meals application. This does not apply to students in schools that provide free meals for students during normal times (CEP schools).

If your child is already approved to receive free school meals, you should check with your school district to be sure they have the right information for your child (i.e. address, birthdate).

You may also be eligible for SNAP (food stamps). If you are approved for SNAP, you will automatically receive P-EBT once the state starts making those payments, as long as your child is enrolled in your the National School Lunch Program. Being enrolled in SNAP alone does NOT make your child qualified. 

Visit njhelps.org to see if you qualify for SNAP and other programs.

Hunger Free New Jersey does not run the P-EBT program so we can only provided limited, general information.

For the most comprehensive and current information about P-EBT, please visit the

New Jersey Department of Human Services P-EBT webpage. 

P-EBT Card Picture