Fried, DeSantis dispute loans to finance school nutrition program |  News, Sports, Jobs - FORT MYERS

Governor Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried disagree on who deserves credit for funding school food aid. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

Florida Commissioner for Agriculture Nikki Fried and Governor Ron DeSantis argue over loans to fund school food after Fried announced that their department would sell $ 93.2 million through the U.S. Department of Emergency Relief. Dollar to Florida schools hit by the COVID-19 pandemic received Agriculture (USDA). Florida school districts lost $ 262 million in food funding from COVID-19 in the 2020 school year, according to a statement from Fried’s office.

Fried’s office said Commissioner asked DeSantis to use a portion of the state’s CARES Act funding to support school districts and nutrition providers and prevent downsizing and meal service changes due to financial difficulties, but said the governor never did replied.

Jason Muhon, assistant director of communications for the DeSantis office, responded by email by saying: “We absolutely support giving schools funding to ensure that they can continue to offer nutritional programs, this is not an issue. The fact is, the Agriculture Commissioner claimed, without provocation, that Governor DeSantis did not support this funding or the provision of meals for students. This is clearly wrong. Here, too, the governor’s office approved the budget change to enable funding. “

Muhon said that “DeSantis and (Department of Education) Commissioner (Richard) Corcoran have taken repeated, deliberate, and deliberate action to ensure schools can be opened to face-to-face learning in the 2020 school year and to ensure that school districts have funding and flexibility have to provide services to their students, including school lunches. Governor and Commissioner Corcoran began again providing financial support and flexibility to school districts in March 2020. The letter from Commissioner Fried came in September 2020. “

Fried’s department oversees Florida’s $ 1.3 billion school lunch and breakfast programs, which are responsible for feeding approximately 3 million children with more than 300 million meals a year, their office said.

Muhon stated that Corcoran’s emergency order in March 2020 will provide full school funding for the remainder of the school year and allow school districts flexibility in how those funds are used.

“Because the state ensured that school districts received full funding while the school was closed, the state was able to request approximately $ 929.3 million in reimbursement from the Coronavirus Relief Funding (CRF).” said Muhon.

The funds announced by Fried will be distributed to 414 school nutrition authorities, 66 school districts, and the laboratory schools of Florida A&M University and Florida Atlantic University. This includes 128 private, non-profit and charter schools as well as inpatient childcare facilities. The recipients are operators of the National School Lunch Program (NLSP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).

“Healthy eating is so important to our children because without food in our schools they cannot be successful in school, which means they cannot succeed in life.” Fried explained in an email. “COVID-19 has caused our schools $ 262 million in lost school nutrition funding, which means schools will have to make some really tough decisions. Governors in other states had used funding from the CARES Act to support school feeding, but unfortunately that didn’t happen here in Florida – so we went straight to the USDA to make sure Florida’s children weren’t going to starve. “ said Fried.

Fried, who plans to run for governor against DeSantis in 2022, stated that with 1 million children in Florida “Food insecurity and 71 percent of school meals are free or reduced, we cannot afford to disrupt school feeding.”

Muhon stated that the school districts due to the emergency ordinances of the Corcoran “$ 681 million in government funding that would otherwise have been reduced due to a drop in student numbers.”