Tallahassee, Fla. – As K-12 schools prepare to reopen across Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is releasing guidance on the eligibility for and availability of school meals.
When schools are open: School meals are provided by schools operating under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); in Florida, this $1.3 billion program is administered through FDACS. In School Year 2019-2020, Florida schools provided 332,779,645 meals to 2,918,224 children; including 286,303,427 free and reduced-price meals to 2,073,629 children through the National School Lunch Program.
When schools are closed: During school closures, such as the summer and throughout COVID-19, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and the Seamless Summer Option (SSO), together known as Summer BreakSpot, operate 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 statewide.
Schools that operate Summer BreakSpot sites typically pause service between programs to prepare their facilities and train staff for the upcoming school year. The date upon which schools stop operating Summer Breakspot sites is a local decision. 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.
Virtual school eligibility: Per federal regulations and USDA guidance, virtual schools do not meet the definition of schools under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). 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. 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.
“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,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Ultimately, 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 U.S. 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, FDACS’ Director of the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness.
Questions: School administrators or school district personnel with questions about NSLP eligibility should contact the FDACS Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness at InfoFNW@FDACS.gov 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.