Walsh urges eligible parents to use enhanced EBT program

Mayor Martin Walsh this week urged Dorchester residents with children enrolled in Boston Public Schools to take advantage of an enhanced Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program that offers additional food-buying relief for households hit hard by the pandemic.

The program is available for all students who receive free or reduced lunch under the National School Lunch Program, including all Boston Public Schools as well as public Charter Schools.  Normally, Boston schools offer breakfast and lunch for most schoolkids. The Pandemic EBT Program will help families buy their own food while schools await in-person re-openings.

“Across the city we still have over 6,700 unactivated cards ,and in Dorchester there are 1,400,” said Walsh. “That’s where we really want to get the word out to families. It’s an incredible resource. We don’t want anyone missing out because they’re not aware of it.”

Walsh spoke as part of a statewide awareness campaign supported by the Shah Family Foundation and Project Bread in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

He was joined in a virtual event by First Lady Lauren Baker, Catalina Lopez-Ospina, director of the city’s Office of Food Access, and Jill Shah,  president of the Shah Family Foundation. 

“We’re here to address concerns and we want to make sure that the federal dollars that have been put aside to help families buy food are used. At the same time, we want to make sure that people are encouraged to use them to support their local grocer, farmer’s market and people who are struggling,” said the mayor.

He added: “There are millions of dollars that could go to our businesses and that’s another great reason to use this money.” 

The Baker-Polito administration has received federal approval to promote increased food security for families who participate in the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. Families enrolled receive payments of roughly $30 weekly for each student. The benefit is expected to bring more than $200 million in federal funds into the state’s economy. 

“This is a very trying, complicated, and difficult time for everybody and we want to make sure that people are aware of this resource,” repeated Walsh. “It really should be taken advantage of for a whole host of reasons.”