TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is applauding a decision announced yesterday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend several waivers through as late as December 31, 2020, providing summer meal program operators with the ability to provide free meals to all children through the end of 2020.
“As we continue navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that we continue to prioritize fighting food insecurity among students, and that means making sure Florida’s children aren’t wondering where their next meal will come from,” stated Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “We’re grateful that the USDA has extended these waivers, allowing summer meal program operators to continue providing healthy, nutritious meal options for students. FDACS remains focused on supporting Florida’s students and families — we will get through these challenging times together.”
Updates: USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is extending a suite of nationwide waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the end of 2020 or until available funding runs out. Updates include:
- Allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost.
- Permitting meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times.
- Waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary.
- Allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
Summer BreakSpot: Amid school closures due to COVID-19, Florida school districts transitioned from providing Nation School Lunch Program (NSLP) services to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), together known as Summer BreakSpot, operating at schools, non-profits, and other community-based organizations. From March through June, Summer BreakSpot sponsors served 59,247,081 meals at 3,775 sites across Florida.
Background: In March, FDACS was approved for federal waivers providing flexibility for schools, childcare institutions, and community organizations to feed children during COVID-19 school closures. Commissioner Fried activated the 2-1-1 hotline through which Floridians can call or text to find free children’s meals near them. On August 10, Commissioner Fried wrote to Florida’s Congressional Delegation highlighting the importance of nutrition programs, calling for universal free school meals and an extension of the Pandemic EBT program, and emphasizing the dire financial issues facing providers of school meals and other nutrition assistance programs.
FDACS’ Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness administers Florida’s school lunch program, through $1.3 billion in federal funding. 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.