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    Monday, July 22, 2024

    Low-income families seek alternatives as summer food assistance delayed until August

    Kim Turek, a social worker in Groton’s Human Services department, said she spoke Tuesday with two clients who like others in the state were expecting to receive $120 in additional food assistance benefits, per child, from the state, on Sunday.

    But the two, along with other low-income families with 273,000 children across the state, haven’t gotten their money yet.

    That’s because the program, which is new, has been delayed at least until early August, said Christine Stuart, deputy communications director for the state Department of Social Services.

    The program, called the Summer EBT program, is a nationwide food assistance program meant to supplement other forms of assistance people already receive, Stuart said. The program, which seeks to provide additional relief to families struggling to feed their children while schools are out for the summer, is the result of a 2022 federal law. It is run through the federal government.

    Connecticut submitted its letter of intent to be one of 35 states to participate in the program in December, and last month received $32.7 million that the state Department of Social Services will distribute to families.

    Stuart said people are still going to get that money, which averages out to around $120 per child and will be deposited into EBT accounts as a lump sum in another month.

    Explaining the delay, Stuart said “getting a new program up and running comes with setting up a system that didn’t previously exist.”

    Once the program is finally launched it will “not impact any other food assistance programs,” according to a statement from the state. “When we launch it this summer, families will begin receiving additional summer assistance benefits above any other food assistance programs that they are already receiving.”

    Turek said both clients she had been working with already receive supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP) benefits which is available to low-income Connecticut residents.

    “There’s definitely a lot of need in general regarding food,” she said.

    Alternatives while residents await their Summer EBT benefits

    Groton Human Services Director Marge Fondulas said while the department is not directly involved with the state Summer EBT program, the department is “certainly involved with people who will feel the pinch of not receiving the expected benefits at the time they expected them.”

    Turek said thankfully, the human services department is able to point the two residents she spoke with, and others, to a variety of services in the area where they can get food.

    They include Groton Community Meals, which hands out free meals on Monday at 6 p.m. at the Groton Senior Center, and Wednesday at the Thames River Magnet School.

    Meanwhile, Groton Public Schools Food Services Department offers free breakfast and lunch to children at five locations: Anchors Landing, Groton Public Library, the Splash Pad on Tern Road, Poquonnock Plains Park and Branford Manor. Those locations will be open for free meals most weekdays through August 19.

    Breakfast times vary, and can be found on the schools’ website at https://www.grotonschools.org/parent-and-students/foodservices.

    The United Way also organizes several food assistance initiatives in the region, including mobile food pantries. The Groton one is held at the St. John’s Church the fourth Friday of each month, Turek said. Others are held at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Stonington High School and the Ocean Avenue LEARNing Academy in New London.

    “People stay in their cars and pull up and volunteers put boxes of food items, some perishable, some non-perishable, into their trunks,” Fondulas said.

    The United Way also operates the Gemma E. Moran United Food Center in New London, where residents can get food. It also contributes food to 72 different food pantries across New London County.

    “We know that the summertime is a difficult time for a lot of families,” said Annie Stockton, vice president of the Gemma center. “Because we know their kids aren’t getting meals through the school system.”

    Many people don’t think as much about donating in the summer, she said.

    “But it definitely is a time of need,” Stockton added.

    Fondulas also referenced that most other towns have human or social services departments that can help families find food pantries or assistance programs while they wait for August to come.

    “So there are resources available to them, even though they’re not receiving the money,” Fondulas said.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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