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Nikki Fried opens school lunch program for students out of school

It’s up to individual school districts to implement the program.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness will provide school meals to students displaced from the classroom as a result of the novel coronavirus.

The department announced its plan after news that all Florida K-12 schools will be closed through Monday, March 30 to prevent spreading the virus further.

“For millions of Florida’s children, schools meals are the only meals they can count on. We are working closely with school districts to ensure that students have access to healthy, nutritious meals while schools are closed due to COVID-19,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. 

“We are working with the USDA on authority to provide schools with flexible options to make school meals available. Most of all, we are standing with Florida’s schools and families to ensure no child goes hungry while schools are out.”

In the 2018-19 school year, Florida’s schools served 286,734,316 school lunches, of which 245,782,422 were free or reduced lunches. These schools served 2,908,335 Florida students, of which 2,089,852 were students receiving free or reduced lunches. FDACS is the state agency that funds Florida’s school lunch program, through $1.3 billion in federal funding.

While the department will make the option to provide alternative methods of delivering meals to students while schools are closed, individual districts will have to determine how or if they utilize that benefit.

The department of agriculture is leveraging the Summer BreakSpot community and other non-profit partners to ensure meals are available.

Families in need should contact their individual districts to find out how to receive meals.

The department of agriculture submitted waiver requests with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to utilize the Summer Food Service Program or National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option to provide meals during the unexpected closure. Those programs are typically used to provide student meals to low income families over summer vacation.

Last school year, Florida schools served more than 286 million school lunches, of which more than 245 million were free or reduced priced. Those meals served more than 2.9 million students, most of whom received free or reduced lunch benefits.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services funds Florida’s school lunch program through $1.3 billion in federal funding.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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