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Coronavirus in Florida

Nikki Fried activates hotline to find meals for kids during school closures

Find locations by text, phone or online.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Wednesday activated a text line and call center to find free meals for kids during school closures related to the coronavirus.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services partnered with 2-1-1 to create the resources.

Floridians can text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211 to find the closest participating Summer BreakSpot location with meals available. Residents can also call 2-1-1 to speak with a live operator for additional information.

“For so many of Florida’s children, school meals are the only meals they can count on — that’s why we’re now providing even more ways to secure healthy, nutritious meals for kids,” Fried said.

“Floridians can now find Summer BreakSpot free meal locations by text, by phone, and online, with additional locations being added every day. We encourage families to take advantage of these free resources, and to check with their school districts on other meal availability.”

As of Tuesday, about 1,000 locations had been approved for Summer BreakSpot meal distribution statewide. Fried’s department expects that number to grow as the agency continues to approve additional locations.

If no Summer BreakSpot locations are listed in a county during a given week, users should contact their local school district to determine if school meals will be available. Users should also contact locations listed on the Summer BreakSpot map, or provided by 2-1-1 text or phone operator, to confirm opening dates and times.

These counties are offering meals for students 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, DeSoto, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Glades, Gulf, Hamilton, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lafayette, Lake, Lee, Leon, Madison, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Monroe, Nassau, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union, Volusia, Walton, and Washington.

Summer BreakSpot is a federally funded program that provides meals to students over summer break, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a waiver to activate the program during coronavirus-related school closures.

The USDA also granted a waiver Fried requested giving schools flexibility on how they distribute meals, including measures to reduce person-to-person interaction. Some of those measures include drive-thru distribution or mass distribution to provide several days worth of meals

In the 2018-19 school year, Florida’s schools served 286,734,316 school lunches, serving 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.

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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