USDA

When Elle Simone Scott was a young girl, her family relied on food stamps and her school's free lunch program to get by.

"At several points in my life, receiving free lunch when I needed it the most, it was so beneficial for me," she says. "You know, it was sometimes the most complete meal that I and some of my friends would have in a day."

School lunches are healthier than they were five years ago. But Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says schools need more flexibility in serving meals that kids will eat.

"If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted," Perdue said in a statement announcing a rule that is set to be published later this month.

The delivery of federal food benefits for millions of low-income people is likely to change after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it'll allow states more flexibility in how they dole out the money.

In Florida, 15 percent of families don’t know where they’re going to get their next meal. When you look at children alone, that number increases to almost a quarter who are food insecure, according to Feeding America, one of the largest networks of food banks in the country.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) is urging the Department of Agriculture to extend the deadline for Floridians to apply for emergency food benefits in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska was led through a maze of raised garden beds on a lot nestled in the middle of a Westside neighborhood Tuesday.

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As part of Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative, a group of major food retailers promised in 2011 to open or expand 1,500 grocery or convenience stores in and around neighborhoods with no supermarkets by 2016. By their own count, they're far short.

After the the school lunch program was overhauled in 2012 to curb childhood obesity, lots of kids began complaining that lunches were too skimpy.

Why? Because in some cases, schools had to limit healthy foods — such as sandwiches served on whole-grain bread or salads topped with grilled chicken — due to restrictions the U.S. Department of Agriculture set on the amount of grains and protein that could be served at meal-time.

In some districts, program participation dropped as more kids decided to brown-bag it and bring their own food to school.

In Florida, the number of cases of food poisoning linked to Foster Farms brand chicken is now four, the state Department of Health announced Thursday. None of the patients had to be hospitalized, DOH said.

Three of the patients were in Miami-Dade and one in Brevard, DOH said. The agency said late today that the patients were: a 1-year-old baby, children ages 7 and 15, and an 88-year-old. There were two males and two females, a spokesman said via e-mail.