Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sent a second letter to the Governor reiterating her September 11 request that part of Florida’s federal CARES Act funding provided for emergency relief to Florida schools and school districts be dedicated to supporting the 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 continues to worsen during COVID-19.
The letter follows a report published in August 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 2020-21 school year due to the pandemic. With COVID-19 cases surging to record highs, Florida schools would face severe financial impacts should schools once again need to close. States including Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and others have spent CARES Act funds to support school nutrition programs.