Nikki Fried calls on Ron DeSantis to draw down federal aid for feeding hungry children

nikki fried ron DeSantis
The state has so far not taken advantage of a federal program.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried called on Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday to apply for $820 million in federal aid that would help feed hungry children.

Florida is the largest of 11 states that have not applied for food aid that was extended for summer months as part of the feds’ pandemic relief effort, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fried stopped by St. Ruth Missionary Baptist Church in Dania Beach to highlight need for the aid.

“One child going hungry … is way too many, especially when there is help available that is not being used,” Fried said. “The question is why? Unfortunately, this is part of a troubling trend that we’ve seen in the Governor’s administration.”

Christina Pushaw, the Governor’s spokeswoman, said the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer this program offers would have been a duplicate of what Florida offers children in the summer.

“Unless FDACS (the state Agriculture and Consumer Services Department) failed in this mission, free meals were available for children and teens throughout the state through their … Summer BreakSpot,” Pushaw wrote in a response. “Summer BreakSpot provided up to two nutritious meals at no cost to children 18 years and under while school was out for the summer. If this program was not managed appropriately under Commissioner Fried and children suffered as a result, Floridians need to know that.”

And, now, since kids are back in school with access to school free- and reduced-price meals, this pandemic aid is no longer needed, she added.

“The purpose of Pandemic EBT was to provide additional benefits for households with children who temporarily lost access to free and reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures and virtual learning, such as closures being forced on families in many other states,” Pushaw said.

Fried, a Democrat, is running to replace DeSantis as Florida’s Governor. First, she faces U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in the Primary Election.

Fried pointed out that Texas was approved this week for its share of the Pandemic Electronic Transfer aid. It means $1.4 billion for the entire state, including $375 per eligible child.

But it’s not coming to Florida, even though a U.S. Census survey found that 14% of households in the state faced hunger in June and July, Fried said.

“The people of Florida cannot afford a Governor leaving money on the table, especially when it comes to leaving food off of their table,” Fried said.

Distributing the aid does not obligate the state to match funds, she said.

DeSantis cut off the $300 per week federal supplement to Florida’s $275 per week payment for the unemployed on June 26. Congress had approved the supplement to continue until Sept. 6. The DeSantis administration has also been criticized for being slow to distribute pandemic rental assistance.

“Once again I will ask this Governor to do what is right for the people,” Fried said. “Stand up, take down this money and give it to the people who are in need.”

Pushaw responded to Fried’s contention pointing out that the DeSantis administration has distributed some $102 million of that $850 million in rental assistance. And, while the federal unemployment supplement was discontinued in response to growth in Florida’s job market, the state continues to administer other federal pandemic assistance for the unemployed.

Dania Beach Mayor Tamara James applauded Fried’s effort.

“It’s hard work, but somebody’s got to do it,” James said, praising Fried as someone who does more than sit at the table.

“It’s time for us to start … changing things that are happening,” James said. “And making sure that we are really advocating for the communities that elected us.”

Congressional Democrats in a Thursday letter urged DeSantis to do the same as what Fried requested.

“It would be abhorrent to leave millions of federal funds on the table that could feed children in need,” U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of North Florida wrote on Twitter. “I led a letter to Gov. DeSantis urging him to apply for the $820 million in food assistance & help our students this summer.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • Ed

    August 26, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    Nikki get some of that dope money from your boyfriend and buy yourself some new jeans.

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 27, 2021 at 5:29 am

    If Fing Duffus Desantis can’t harm our children one way, he uses taking their food! Duffus Desantis is a damn drug dealer and Nazi wannabe! Lock him up for crimes of intentional harm! Get out Desantis!

  • Rodney Cloverfield

    August 27, 2021 at 11:32 am

    The rental assistance fund, like the food aid described in this article, won’t cost the state of Florida anything at all–it’s all federal aid–but DeSantis suspects the people who are the intended recipients of this money vote Democrat, so he’s not going to pass along the money. He’s very anal. And he’s not starving, that’s for sure.

    • Impeach Biden

      August 28, 2021 at 9:20 am

      Looks to me like Nikki hasn’t missed too many meals lately either. She must be getting the late night munchies after that dope smoking.

Comments are closed.


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