TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Friday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sent a letter to the Governor requesting that part of Florida’s federal CARES Act funding provided for emergency relief to Florida schools and school districts be dedicated to supporting National School Lunch Program (NSLP) sponsors. Last year, more than 289 million school meals were served to 2.9 million Florida students, 71 percent of which were free or reduced-price meals. School meals are an important part of fighting food insecurity that affects 3 million Floridians, including 850,000 children, and is expected to worsen during COVID-19.
The letter follows a report published last month by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) highlighting nearly $262 million in financial losses experienced by Florida school lunch providers due to COVID-19. Schools and school districts may face up to an additional $370 million in nutrition funding losses in the first half of the 2020-21 school year due to the pandemic. States including Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and others have spent CARES Act funds to support school nutrition programs.
Commissioner Fried also requested a full accounting by September 18 how the DeSantis administration has obligated or spent CARES Act funding so far. As an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, Fried also requested that CARES Act funding be scheduled for discussion at the next Cabinet meeting on September 22.