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Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett Announces that The USDA Has Approved a Program to Feed Kids in US Virgin Islands

Press Release

Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, today released the following statement that the US Virgin Islands has been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures:

"The U.S. Virgin Islands will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school. For the 2019-2020 school year, the US Virgin Islands had approximately 13,200 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch (all children in participating schools).

"Under FFCRA, States have the option to submit a plan to the Secretary of Agriculture for providing these benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. State agencies may operate Pandemic EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.

"The implementation of Pandemic EBT is in line with USDA's commitment and the efforts of my office to keep Virgin Islanders safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and to keep Virgin Island children fed when schools are closed. My office is working with the USDA and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators can continue to feed children. This latest action complements previously announced flexibilities for the Child Nutrition programs that:

Allow parents and guardians to pick up meals to bring home to their kids;

Temporarily waive mealtimes requirements to make it easier to pick up multiple-days' worth of meals at once;

Allow meals to be served in non-congregate settings to support social distancing;

Waive the requirement that after-school meals and snacks served through certain programs be accompanied by educational activities to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus; and

Allow states, on an individual state-by-state basis, to serve free meals to children in all areas, rather than only those in areas where at least half of students receive free or reduced-price meals.

"Today's announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA's Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA's commitment to "Do Right and Feed Everyone' during this national emergency.

"USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American's agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy."