TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Commissioner Nikki Fried announced the approval of over $1 billion in P-EBT funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide retroactive Summer 2022 supplemental nutrition assistance to 2.6 million Florida children. The announcement follows months of advocacy by Commissioner Fried for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), which administers the program in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), to apply for this available federal funding. DCF finally submitted the state’s application to USDA for approval last week. Last year, DCF also rejected initial calls to apply for the Summer 2021 P-EBT benefits until Commissioner Fried’s advocacy led to the securing of an additional $1 billion in federal nutrition assistance..
“Allowing our children to go hungry should never be an option, especially when the federal government has made substantial assistance readily available to the state to help feed our children in need. But unfortunately, for the second year in a row, we had to fight to get the DeSantis Administration to even recognize the need for supplemental nutrition assistance and apply for this funding,” said Commissioner Fried. “Fortunately, Florida families will still receive these federal benefits – albeit retroactively once again – of nearly $400 per eligible child. Nutrition is essential for the health, well-being, and future of our children, and this assistance will serve as a lifeline during a time when the unaffordability crisis in our state is creating more food insecurity.”
Background: In Florida, the P-EBT program is administered by DCF and FDACS does not have the authority to apply for the funding on its own because DCF is the lead agency. FDACS administers a completely separate summer nutrition program, called the Summer Food Service Program or Summer BreakSpot. On average, that program serves between 14 and 16 million meals per summer to children across Florida, with FDACS continuing to meet its mission through the successful administration of this program this summer. However, it is official USDA policy that summer food assistance programs have difficulty addressing the full extent of need and gaps remain, which is why additional funding from supplemental nutrition programs like P-EBT remain vital to help feed children and families facing food insecurity across the state.
In July, Commissioner Fried wrote to Governor Ron DeSantis and DCF Secretary Shevaun Harris about their failure to apply for this year’s summer P-EBT program, and to voice concerns about the deficiencies in DCF’s SNAP program that led to them receiving a formal warning from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2021, the DeSantis administration refused to apply for available summer P-EBT funding until Commissioner Fried’s advocacy forced their hand and ended up securing $1 billion in federal nutrition assistance for Florida kids. Throughout the pandemic, Fried has advocated for using federal COVID relief funds to support school nutrition, including securing $93.2 million for Florida school districts that lost $262 million in nutrition funding due to COVID-19 in the 2020 school year, and successfully requested the Biden Administration consider establishing universal school meals for children.
FDACS oversees the state’s $1.3 billion school meals program, serving 319 million meals to nearly 3 million Florida children. When schools closed due to COVID-19, Commissioner Fried activated the BreakSpot program early, helping serve 74 million meals to Florida kids from March through August 2020. On average, that program serves between 14 and 16 million meals per summer to children across Florida. This past summer, the program served over 18.5 million meal and added more than 1,400 additional meal sites across the state.