Federal government sends $ 86.9 million to Florida for school meals amid supply chain challenges

By Laura Cassels, Florida Phoenix

The US Department of Agriculture is sending Florida $ 86.9 million to schools for food to help them deal with the supply chain challenges associated with the COVID pandemic.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday announced Florida’s share of $ 1.5 billion is being provided to states to purchase food for school meals, including $ 200 million to be used for cooperative deals to buy food locally from historically underserved producers.

The bulk of the funding will be provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service in the form of cash payments known as the Supply Chain Assistance Fund for up to 100,000 schools in the U.S. states and territories, including public, charter, tribal, and nonprofit private schools, and children’s residential schools. care facilities. Foods purchased should be domestic unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruit, millet, frozen vegetables, and ground meat.

The largest allocation, at $ 171.5 million, is for California, followed by Texas, at $ 168.3 million, New York, at $ 88.1 million, and Florida, at $ 86.9 million.

The funds, authorized in an executive order from President Joe Biden, are intended to help schools and school districts make arrangements to offset disruptions in the country’s supply chains for food and other goods and to build more resilient networks to feed children in school.

“The USDA recognizes that some schools are having difficulty purchasing and obtaining food for their meal programs and is taking swift action to ensure that this does not interfere with their ability to serve meals to children whose they have custody ”, the Food and Nutrition Service. declares on its website the efforts to help schools provide meals to schoolchildren, regardless of the difficulties in the supply chain.

Providing meals to school-aged children has been a source of contention this year between Governor Ron DeSantis and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried. After DeSantis opted out of $ 820 million in federal child food aid for 2021-2022, Fried and other Democrats protested, as Florida Politics explains. Florida was the only state that did not apply for the available funding. Fried is running for governor in the 2022 election.

The DeSantis administration has since requested 2021-22 food aid, but Fried wrote to DeSantis two months later asking why some families still had not received all of the funds approved the previous year, covering the year. school year 2020-21 and summer 2021.

The litigation centers on the Pandemic and Electronics Benefit Transfer Program, which provided funding to feed children who were out of school due to COVID and who would otherwise have been entitled to free meals or reduced price at school.

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