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Idaho not tapping into $15 million in federal funds for school lunches this summer

Morgan Lee
/
AP

Idaho is walking away from millions of dollars that would have gone to feeding children from low-income families this summer.

The state participated in 2021 and part of 2022, but decided to discontinue the pandemic era program this year and it will not be receiving the almost $15 million available from the federal government. The money would have gone to children who qualify for free or reduced-priced school lunches over the summer.

Called P-EBT, or Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, the program was first created during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure students from low income families would have better access to food while they were learning from home.

Idaho State Department of Education’s Scott Graf says the decision was made early last year under former Superintendent Sherri Ybarra.

“The current administration inherited a budget request of the legislature that did not include the necessary full time positions that would be needed to administer the program this summer,” he said.

Current Superintendent Debbie Critchfield took office in January.

“This is not some ideological thing where we're saying, you know, we're just not going to do this because we don't believe in spending federal monies to feed kids during the summer or kids who might need that,” he said. “This is a logistical set of challenges that, simply based on the timeline that we inherited, were just too big to overcome.”

Graf added agencies were exploring new state and federal funding streams to reinstate a similar subsidy next summer.

The Idaho Statesman reportsIdaho is one of eight states in the country not participating in the program this year.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.

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