Last week it was announced the USDA’s pandemic-related free school lunch (and breakfast) program, which fed every public school student at no cost regardless of income, was coming to a close.

The announcement came at a tough time as families are paying more for gas, groceries, and heating and cooling costs, but when school begins caregivers can apply for the free and reduced lunch programs at their child’s school.

Other help may be coming for those who qualify.


On Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Human Services is announcing three new developments with the administration of the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Program (P-EBT):

School Year 2021/2022 P-EBT

The distribution of P-EBT benefits covering the 2021/2022 school year will begin on July 30, 2022. Eligibility for P-EBT is based on National School Lunch Program qualification and school attendance related to COVID-19. P-EBT benefits are available to children who:

Children are automatically enrolled in P-EBT for the 2021/2022 school year according to records provided by Tennessee schools regarding excused absences and closures related to COVID-19. No application is required.

Eligible children will receive approximately $7.10 per each excused absence day, related to COVID-19. The total amount of P-EBT benefits will vary for each eligible child.

If the child already has an active P-EBT card, benefits will be added to that card. If a new P-EBT card is needed please visit or call 1 (888) 997-9444. If the child has not received P-EBT before, a new EBT card will be mailed to their home.

Parents can login to the P-EBT Parent Portal at to view P-EBT benefits, link their child(ren), verify or change address, and sign up to receive text message notifications. 

School Year 2021/2022 P-EBT Reconsideration Process

Parents who believe their child’s School Year 2021/2022 P-EBT benefits do not reflect the number of school meals missed due to COVID-19-related school closures or excused absences during the 2021/2022 school year can submit a Reconsideration request via the P-EBT Parent Portal at must be made between July 22, 2022 and August 29, 2022. If approved, reconsideration benefits will be issued in September 2022. To learn more about the Reconsideration Process visit:

P-EBT is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). Both departments were instrumental in developing P-EBT plans and taking the steps necessary to identify eligible children and distribute benefits.

Child Care P-EBT (For SNAP Households)

The Child Care P-EBT program provides financial assistance to cover meals for children ages 6 and under, living within households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and may have missed meals due to Child Care interruptions caused by COVID-19. To be eligible for Child Care P-EBT children must:

  • Be 6 years old or under, and
  • Live in a household currently receiving SNAP food assistance benefits

Child Care P-EBT benefits will be issued in one lump sum payment on July 28, 2022 on the household’s existing SNAP EBT card. The amount of Child Care P-EBT benefits will vary for each eligible child and household based on the child’s age and number of months over the August 2021 to May 2022 timeframe in which the family received SNAP benefits.

For more information visit:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 (PL 116–127, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (PL 116-260), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (PL 117-2) provides the Secretary of Agriculture authority to approve state agency plans to administer P-EBT. Approved state agencies may operate P-EBT when a school is closed or has been operating with reduced attendance or hours for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation when the school would otherwise be in session.

Echo Day
Author: Echo Day

Echo Day is an award-winning journalist, photographer and designer. She is currently The Leader's managing editor.