Nearly every American life is impacted by COVID-19, but food insecure children are experiencing a unique challenge. With school closures consistent across not only the entire state but nearly the entire country, what is being done to ensure our children don’t have to add hunger to their list of challenges during this time?
Fortunately, a significant amount. Several Florida counties have stepped up and provided school meal distribution to those in need immediately. Summer BreakSpots are open, and any child under the age of 18 can pick up food and doesn’t need to go to that school. Parents can also pick up the food with a waiver and identification of the student.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Division of Food, Nutrition, and Wellness launched the website to help families find the closest schools where they can pick up breakfast and lunch during the extended break. There are more than 930 locations across the state offering this service. Pickups are generally in mid morning to early afternoon.
“For millions of Florida’s children, school 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,” stated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
To provide a picture of the number of students who rely on these lunches, “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.” The existing issue of hunger is further complicated by many parents losing their jobs due to COVID-19, making purchasing necessities like food more difficult, and the allotted amount is not always enough.
Many schools and pickup sites have enacted guidelines of social distancing, such as drive through lines and keeping distance if biking or walking, to prevent the spread of the virus. Additionally, everything must be taken to go. It is recommended to disinfect the bags of any take out foods and wash your hands as soon as you get home and again before eating.
The plan to reopen school this year is still undetermined. In the meantime, this is the new normal. If you’d like to help out, some counties have safe distribution volunteer opportunities as well.
The new challenge of virtual schooling exists across the state. In every county, students are back to the books with online lectures and assignments from their teachers. Hopefully, a full belly will not be a challenge as well.
Rachel Ram is a health educator, policy advocate, adventurer, and overall foodie. Rachel earned her Bachelor of Science in Health Education, Community Health and Preventive Medicine from the University of Florida in 2017. A lifetime resident of south Florida, she now resides in Brooklyn NY working for the American Lung Association. She began her work with the Florida Food Policy Council in 2016 and continues to raise awareness on food policy issues. Besides engaging in food policy, Rachel enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, cooking and reading.
Disclaimer: The views of the writers do not represent the views of the Florida Food Policy Council. We are a forum for the offering and sharing of information and encourage diversity and communication within the food system.