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Health News Florida

Barrier To Feeding Hungry Kids In South Florida: Lack Of Transportation

 A family gets three breakfasts at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale in March 2020. Drive-thru meal pickups, food trucks and delivery via school bus are some of the ways school districts and nonprofits have helped get food to families during the pandemic.
A family gets three breakfasts at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale in March 2020. Drive-thru meal pickups, food trucks and delivery via school bus are some of the ways school districts and nonprofits have helped get food to families during the pandemic.

The statewide chapter of No Kid Hungry, a national organization tackling childhood food insecurity, has seen more requests for grants to support transporting food directly to students and families.

Since the start of the pandemic, South Florida school districts — and nearly two dozen nonprofits in the region — have received millions of dollars in grants to help feed kids. That's on top of the money that comes from the federal government for school meals.

The Florida chapter of the national organization No Kid Hungry has distributed nearly $8 million to schools and community organizations since COVID-19 hit, including a round of $2.5 million earlier this month.

Schools and organizations, that have helped get food to families who need it, saw their needs change during the coronavirus crisis. It's not just food itself that's needed; getting the food to where the kids are is another challenge.

"It's fantastic to have a meal site available for families to come. But if they don't have a way to get there, it's just not going to meet their needs," said Sky Beard, director of No Kid Hungry Florida.

Groups are looking for transportation funding, "and that means revamping food trucks and getting them into communities, so that it's more accessible to families. It means putting meals on school buses."

The Monroe County school district did just that earlier during the pandemic. Bus drivers delivered breakfasts, lunches and snacks throughout the Florida Keys, where students often live miles away from school buildings.

Beard said advocates for ending childhood food insecurity in Florida had made progress in recent years but the pandemic set that back. Now, about one in five kids in South Florida are struggling, she said.

"That's about 250,000 children who are living in homes where families aren't quite sure where that next meal is going to come from," Beard said.

A text line set up by No Kid Hungry explains how they can find that next meal: Families can text "FOOD" or "COMIDA" to 877-877. There's also a map of sites where meals are available here.

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