Free and Reduced Meals

PA Dept of Ed

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for Free and Reduced Eligible Students

To: Chief Administrators and School Nutrition Programs Contact
From: Vonda Ramp, M.S., R.D.
State Director, Child Nutrition Programs
Date: April 28, 2020
Subject: Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer for Free and Reduced Eligible Students

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provides benefits, referred to as Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT), to families of school-aged children who would have otherwise received free or reduced-priced meals if it were not for school closures.

Families of school-aged children certified as free or reduced eligible will receive the equivalent of the free high rate for lunch and the severe need rate for breakfast for each day school was closed.  That means a family will receive the benefit amount of $5.70 for each school-aged child in their family for each day school has been closed since March 16, 2020.  This benefit is extended to all children in Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools. This benefit will be issued in the form of an EBT card by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS). It is important to note this benefit is not in lieu of meals that schools and communities are currently providing; P-EBT is in addition to those meals.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is closely coordinating with DHS to develop a plan to be submitted to USDA for approval.  PDE will be responsible for providing DHS a list of all school-aged students that are certified as eligible for free and reduced-priced meals.  We know that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are working in unusual circumstances and resources are stretched.  PDE will be extracting as much information as possible from its direct certification system, PrimeroEdge, to alleviate/minimize the data requests.  However, some LEAs only use PrimeroEdge for Direct Certification, which limits the information available to only those students that are Directly Certified. In the coming weeks, PDE will communicate directly with LEAs that only use PrimeroEdge for Direct Certification to obtain a file of free and reduced eligible students who are not directly certified. Details about the file process will be provided in the future email communications; however, in order to provide eligible families the P-EBT benefits due to them, LEAs will be required to participate in the data collection.

For LEA’s that use the Pennsylvania Full Student Eligibility System, PDE expects to have sufficient information to provide to DHS if all fields in the LEAs student upload file are complete.   PDE will extract the information from PrimeroEdge and only contact the LEA if more information is necessary.

As nutrition program sponsors already know from serving on the front lines, the economics of families/households have changed significantly since March.  Families not previously eligible for free or reduced-priced meals may now be eligible. Families are applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that were not previously eligible.  As we monitor the Direct Certification files, the number of directly certified students is increasing. 

To ensure families in need receive the P-EBT benefit they are eligible for, we are asking LEAs to: 

Remind families that it is important that their contact information, most importantly name, address, and phone number, is up to date in the LEA’s student information system if the LEA can accept and update changes at this time.  This reminder can be generic using remote calling systems, text messages, and/or email.

Review Direct Certification files in PrimeroEdge, and ensure that all potential high, medium, and sibling matches are reviewed and processed appropriately on a regular basis.  A weekly review is ideal, but PDE understands this may not be practical for some LEAs at this time.

Notify families, to the extent practical, about the ability to apply for free and reduced-priced meals and process applications as they are submitted. PDE understands this step is much easier for LEAs that use the Pennsylvania Full Student Eligibility System than for LEAs that use a paper application process, which would require mailing applications. However, all LEAs have access to COMPASS and can promote this as an option for families to use to complete an application for free or reduced-price school meals.

PDE  recognizes that many LEAs are already maximizing their resources to ensure children are provided meals while school is closed.  Families benefit from everyone’s past, present and continued efforts.  However, since free and reduced eligibility are determining factors/criteria for many programs (i.e., CEP, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, etc.) and grants (food service equipment grants, breakfast grants, etc.), LEAs may also benefit from capturing free and reduced eligibility as it increases. 

Thank you for your time and relentless dedication to serve the children of Pennsylvania during these unprecedented times.

Free and Reduced Meals
free and reduced

Free & Reduced Meals Eligibility

Who can get free meals
All children in households receiving benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are eligible for free meals regardless of your income. This includes children living in the household who do not receive SNAP or TANF. Also, your children can get free meals if your household’s gross income is within the free limits on the Federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions about Free and Reduced Meals Services

Household Letter Explaining PA School Meals English
Household Letter Explaining PA School Meals Spanish

If you do not have access to a computer, we have computers in the Administration Building Lobby for your use.

If you require a paper application, please contact your child’s school or the contact person listed below.  Please return the completed application to the Administration Building:

Phoenixville Area School District
Mrs. Mary Jane Weiss
386 City Line Avenue
Phoenixville, PA 19460


For questions regarding the Free and Reduced Meals Program please contact Mrs. Mary Jane Weiss at 484-927-5040 or email at

Spanish Version

Elegibilidad de almuerzos gratis y a precio reducido


¿Quiénes pueden recibir comidas gratis?
Todos los niños, cuyos hogares reciban beneficios del Programa de Asistencia de Nutrición Suplementaria (SNAP, por sus siglas en inglés) o del programa de Asistencia Temporaria para Familias Necesitadas (TANF, por sus siglas en inglés), reúnen los requisitos para recibir comidas gratis sin importar sus ingresos. Esto incluye a los niños que viven en hogares que no reciben beneficios de SNAP, ni de TANF. Asimismo, sus hijos pueden recibir comidas gratis si el ingreso bruto familiar se encuentra dentro de los límites de la tabla federal de ingresos.


Haga clic aquí para aplicación en línea
Haga clic aquí
 para acceder a las preguntas más frecuentes sobre los Servicios de Almuerzos Gratis y a Precio Reducido
Carta hogar Español

Si no tiene acceso a una computadora, las nuestras se encuentran en el lobby del edificio administrativo y están a su disposición.

Si necesita una solicitud en papel, le pedimos que se comunique con la escuela de su hijo/a o con la persona de contacto que aparece a continuación. Por favor, devuelva la solicitud completa al edificio administrativo:

Distrito Escolar del Área de Phoenixville 
Sra. Mary Jane Weiss
386 City Line Avenue
Phoenixville, PA 19460

Si tiene preguntas con respecto al Programa de Almuerzos Gratis o a Precio Reducido, comuníquese con la Sra. Mary Jane Weiss al 484-927-5040 o por correo electrónico a


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