Nearly 1,000 sites will offer meals to students out of school because of coronavirus

school lunch apple
The waivers are needed to allow schools to distribute meals.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted waivers to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on Saturday to allow schools, child care institutions and community organizations to provide meals during school closures related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The waivers allow the state Agriculture Department to provide school districts authority to open programs typically reserved for delivering meals to students during summer vacation.

The department activated its Summer BreakSpot website, where families can find free meals for children under 18 during the current coronavirus school closures. Those locations can be found here.

The following counties are offering meal programs this week: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Broward, Calhoun, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Duval, Hamilton, Indian River, Jackson, Lafayette, Levy, Liberty, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Polk, Sumter, Suwannee, and Union.

These counties will offer meals next week: Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Charlotte, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Leon, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Nassau, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union, Volusia, Walton, and Washington.

As of Sunday, there are 934 active BreakSpot sites statewide in the following counties: Alachua, Baker, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Miami-Dade, Duval, Franklin, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hardee, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Manatee, Marion, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Santa Rosa, and Seminole.

The number of locations will steadily increase as Agriculture Department approves additional BreakSpot site applications.

The meals can be hot or grab-and-go style meals.

The waivers allow school districts, which usually utilize summer meal services and singular sites where they serve multiple children at once, to use flexibility in their delivery methods.

Because the purpose of school closures is to reduce human contact between individuals as much as possible, the waivers allow districts to develop innovative solutions that don’t include mass congregations of dining children.

Some of those methods include drive-thru meal pick-up, deliveries along school bus routes or single drop meal days where children can receive multiple days worth of meals all at once to limit exposure.

The program is important because, for some low-income students, school meals are often the only way they eat nutritional meals throughout the day.

“For millions of Florida’s children, school meals are the only meals they can count on. We’re 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 thank the USDA for helping us provide schools with flexible options to make school meals available. We will leverage innovative solutions, relationships, and the dedication of Florida’s schools and non-profits to ensure no child goes hungry during this pandemic.”

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. Participating 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.

Individual school districts are tasked with developing and applying for programs in their district. Families should check with their local district to find out whether a program is available and how they can receive food if it’s needed.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


2 comments

  • goldtoe6

    March 15, 2020 at 1:06 am

    It’s crime that people have children and cannot pay to feed them. I object to the state taking our money by way of the powers of government and then giving it to other peoples children. This forces many of us to work an additional job to feed someone else child when we have needs of our own. It’s wrong.

  • Jan Killilea

    March 15, 2020 at 9:44 am

    It’s a shame that we have legislators who don’t make it a priority to collect the hundreds of thousands of dollars in child support & alimony owed to families! Instead, we have watched wealthy breadwinners spending six figures to lobbyists to get legislation passed (HB843-Rep. Alex Andrade) when the bill analysis indicated that it could cause women to seek state benefits! The 50/50 child custody would eliminate child support! I know plenty of divorced women who are already struggling to feed their children. Thank God the “so called alimony reform legislation” died AGAIN this year.

Comments are closed.


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