Florida lawmakers have agreed to spend an additional $1 billion in federal funds to improve the nutrition of pregnant women, infants, children and the elderly who live in Florida.
Members of the Legislative Budget Commission (LBC) agreed to the increased funding when they met Friday in Tallahassee. The Gov. Ron DeSantis administration also supported the increase in federal spending, budget documents show. The increased spending — which came from all federal dollars — was approved without fanfare or debate.
The majority of the funds, more than $905 million, are directed to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to support the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program, which operate in nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions across the state.
The majority of the $905 million will be used to reimburse sponsors in the United States Department of Agriculture Child Nutrition Programs, though nearly $11.5 million will be to fund the Local Food for Schools Program.
The LBC also authorized the Department of Health (DOH) to spend an additional $40.1 million for the Child Care Food Program (CCFP). The program provides nutritious meals and snacks to eligible children up to 12 years old, migrant children up to 15 years old, and children with disabilities regardless of age, so long as the majority of individuals being served are 18 or under.
CCFP meals are provided to children through public-private partnerships with licensed facilities which include child care centers, family day care homes, recreational centers, after school educational or enrichment programs and domestic violence and homeless shelters.
The LBC is established in the constitution as well as statute. It is composed of seven members of the House and seven members of the Senate. The Commission is required to meet at least quarterly.
Meanwhile, the LBC also gave DOH the go-ahead to spend an additional $75.2 million in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) federal funds. The federal money provides low-and-moderate income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum, and children under the age of five, with nutritional support.
The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA), meanwhile, got approval to spend more than nearly $51.5 million for programs that provide meals, as well as supportive services, family caregiver support services, and ombudsman services for seniors.
A recent AARP survey of likely voters released this week showed inflation and rising costs was foremost on voters’ minds, with 19% of those surveyed identifying it as the most important issue this election season.
A closer look at the data shows that the increased cost of food was cited by 32% of voters as the most pressing concern with inflation. The rising cost of food is more troubling for residents than the increases in the costs of prescription drugs, health care, housing, and gasoline.