Since the COVID pandemic began 18 months ago, many New Jersey children that would normally get free or reduced-price school meals have not received them because of they’ve been attending classes virtually or on a hybrid schedule

Efforts are now underway to provide them with the food assistance benefits they’ve been missing out on.

Sarah Adelman, the acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, said DHS has been working with school districts across the state to determine eligibility, and the first round of $272 million in benefits has been sent out  "to over 142,000 children whose households are already enrolled in the state’s SNAP program."

The Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program, SNAP, is what used to be called Food Stamps.

She said “these additional food security benefit are normally provided to students in school, before and after school and we wanted to make sure that students and families had those benefits while they were learning at home as well.”

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Adelman pointed out “food security is so important for families, and we know children need nutritious meals to learn, and to grow so we are committed to supporting New Jersey families by providing these additional food benefits.”

She said the benefit money, supplied by the federal government, varies depending on whether a student was completely virtual during the pandemic, or in a hybrid school scenario.

The fully virtual benefit is $122.76 per child per month, and for children who were in hybrid learning the monthly benefit is $61.38.

She explained benefits are being provided on electronic benefit cards which can be used at participating SNAP EBT retailers, online at Amazon and participating locations of ALDI, Shop-Rite, Super Foodtown, The Fresh Grocer and Walmart.

New electronic benefits cards with the extra food assistance benefits are also being sent to parents of 236,000 additional children whose families are not enrolled in SNAP.

The Department of Human Services has distributed more than $846 million in supplemental monthly SNAP payments to eligible households since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

Adelman said "we encourage any residents who need food assistance to visit and apply for SNAP online at www.NJHelps.org.

She added if families believe they are eligible for the federal student benefits they can complete an online inquiry form at www.NJSNAP.gov, or can call 1-833-581-2214.

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