Summer Meal Programs in Florida

Florida doesn't require counties to provide a summer meal program.

Fanasha Black helps out at a summer meal program at her son’s school. Without the program, she says some of the kids might not have a nutritious breakfast or lunch each day.

Fanasha says, “I used to be a single mom and it was really, really hard for me, when having him, and then having to worry about who’s watching him and how’s he going to eat, especially when you’re on a fixed budget.”

There are many areas around Florida that don’t have a summer meal program. Hunger activists say state lawmakers missed a chance to help by not passing a bill this spring that would have required each school district to provide a summer food site.

Debra Susie with Florida Impact says sometimes kids end up surviving on whatever they can find around the house.

Debra says, "They’re not getting the nutritional wholeness that they get when they’re at school, and we believe that that sets them at a disadvantage when school does start in the fall, if that’s a chronic problem during the summer."

The federal government provides the money to pay for these meals. The problem is the feds don’t pick up operational costs like transportation for the kids.

Tim Tankersley oversees 50 summer food programs. He says forcing small rural counties to run a meal site would be a hardship for them.

“We want the kids to get fed and we know how important it is, but it becomes such a problem when you cannot justify the cost of collecting them all on school busses like you do for the school day just to bring them in for a summer meal,” says Tim.

Advocates argue the cost of letting any kids go hungry is a lot higher. Florida Impact says the Sunshine State is eligible to receive $100 million in federal funds to provide summer meals. It'll push lawmakers to take advantage of it next session.