On March 6th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), announced program requirement flexibilities that would allow schools, child care institutions, and community organizations to provide meals to low-income children through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) during school closures related to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In response to Friday’s announcement that all Florida K-12 schools will be closed through Monday, March 30th, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) submitted USDA waiver requests to benefit from this flexibility and has announced alternative methods for providing school meals to students.
“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 in a press release. “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 provide alternative methods of delivering nutritious meals to students, the decision whether to participate in the program during school closures is left to each of the 67 countywide school districts. Parents and families should contact their local school district to determine if school meals will be served during the closure.
Commissioner Fried and FDACS are encouraging all school districts to provide meals throughout the closure. To further ensure Florida’s students are fed, FDACS also plans to leverage its Summer BreakSpot community and non-profit partners.
For more information on how these flexibilities can be used, contact the FDACS Division of Food, Nutrition, and Wellness at InfoFNW@FDACS.gov.
For more information on the Coronavirus visit Florida’s COVID-19 website.
If you feel sick, contact the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121, available 24 hours a day, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.