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The Athens Community Career Academy building at 440 Dearing Ext. in Athens, Georgia on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach)

Classrooms across the country have been empty since the middle of March. With that can come the loss of access to free lunch.

In response, the Clarke County School District has been passing out free meals at select locations and along 16 bus routes this spring and summer.

CSSD families are now set to receive additional help. Every family in the district is eligible to receive $256.50 per child as part of a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, according to a Wednesday tweet from CCSD.

Eilene Gray, a parent of two sons at Clarke Central High School, said she was grateful for the assistance.

“Teenage boys eat a LOT,” Gray said in a written message. “I’ve had to divert money that was budgeted for other things to pick up the extra grocery bill costs. The P-EBT will definitely help me get back on track.”

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a federal bill passed in March, will fund the benefit transfer. Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program should have already received the one-time benefit on their EBT card. All other CCSD families have 60 days to apply, according to the tweet.

P-EBT is a statewide program intended to help the more than 1.1 million children in Georgia who normally receive free or reduced price meals.

Not every Georgia family can receive the money if they don’t have financial need. The added bonus for CCSD stems from the Community Eligibility Provision, a part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed in 2010. All students enrolled in eligible schools receive lunch and breakfast at no cost.

All CCSD schools started operating under the CEP in 2015, which is why every family in the district is eligible for the P-EBT program. Over 500,000 students in 833 schools across Georgia have access to free meals under the provision, according to the Georgia Department of Education School Nutrition.

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