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Feds Help Cover Florida's School Nutrition Program During Pandemic

Steve Cannon
AP Photo
Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says she received no response to her request from the governor's office so she appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing $93 million so staff could continue delivering meals to homebound students.

During a media event at the Florida Capitol on Tuesday, state Rep. Alison Tant said many of Florida's public school food service staff and teachers kept their students fed during the pandemic.

"They were providing food three and four times a week. They were getting on school buses and taking food to children and their families throughout the pandemic and especially at this time last year when there was a lot of fear and confusion," the Tallahassee legislator says.

The resulting cost to the school districts was estimated at $262 million. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she asked Gov. Ron DeSantis for help covering that expense.

"We sent at least one if not two letters to the governor asking for money to be allocated to the school nutrition program and never received a response back, she says.

So Fried said she appealed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and got a better response.

"We are providing $93 million to our Florida schools for pandemic loss reimbusement and this is coming from the federal government," Fried says.

Fried says some of that money has already been sent with the rest to follow this week.

A DeSantis spokesperson acknowledged receiving one of Fried's reimbusement requests this past summer but said it was dismissed as a "political ploy."

Fried, a Democrat, is running to unseat Republican DeSantis as governor in next year's election.

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