Published On: Tue, Aug 11th, 2020

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Announces School Meals Availability and Eligibility Guidelines

FL Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried

As public schools prepare to reopen across Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has released guidance on the eligibility for and availability of school meals.

When schools are open, meals are provided by schools operating under the National School Lunch Program.

In Florida, this $1.3 billion program is administered through FDACS. Last year, Florida schools provided over 332 million meals to 2.9 million children; including 286 million free and reduced-price meals to over 2 million children through the National School Lunch Program.

When schools are closed, such as during the summer and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option, together known as Summer BreakSpot, operate at schools, non-profits, and other community-based organizations.

From March through June, Summer BreakSpot sponsors served over 59 million meals at 3,775 sites statewide.

Schools operating Summer BreakSpot sites typically pause service between programs to prepare their facilities and train staff for the upcoming school year. 

When school districts pause meal service operations, other community-based Summer BreakSpot sites generally continue to serve meals until the day before school begins.

FDACS and its Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness have been coordinating with school districts and non-profits to ensure this occurs. Summer BreakSpot locations can be found by calling 2-1-1, texting “FOODFL” to 877-877, or visiting SummerBreakspot.FreshFromFlorida.com.

Per federal regulations and USDA guidance, virtual schools do not meet the definition of schools under the National School Lunch Program. Students who remain enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar schools that participate in the NSLP, but will be learning remotely, remain eligible for school meals. However, students enrolled full-time in virtual schools (not attached to a brick-and-mortar school) are not eligible for school meals.

Students who are dual enrolled in virtual school and a brick-and-mortar school, and on school grounds for academic purposes during meal service, are eligible to participate in school meals.

According to Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Nikki Fried, “Ensuring that Florida’s children can access healthy meals has been one of our top priorities, not only throughout COVID-19, but during the summer months between school years.” She went on to note, “federal regulations determine eligibility for school meals, but with potentially millions of students learning remotely this fall, we are working closely with school districts to ensure as many kids as possible have access to proper nutrition.”

“We are grateful for the regulatory flexibilities that have been extended by the US Department of Agriculture that will allow schools to operate school meal programs in a manner that accommodates the safe and continued service of meals in tandem with the varied reopening strategies across the state.  We will continue to collaborate with USDA and our school nutrition professionals to ensure they have every resource necessary to continue feeding Florida’s schoolchildren, ” said Lakeisha Hood, Director of the FDAC Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness.

School administrators or school district personnel with questions about NSLP eligibility should contact the FDACS Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness at [email protected] or 850.617.7400.

Parents or families with questions about school meal eligibility should contact their school or local school district. Those with questions about federal eligibility guidelines should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service at 703.305.2060.

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. Commissioner Weinroth serves as County Vice-Mayor and has been appointed Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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