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DeSantis and Fried Square off in Food Fight Over School Lunch Funds

July 9th, 2021 by Jake Stofan
Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, a Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful, are in a food fight over school lunch funding.
Fried claims the Governor ignored her request to direct emergency funding to offset pandemic-related losses to school districts’ nutritional programs, but the Governor said he’s been helping all along.

This week, Commissioner Fried announced she secured $93 million to help school districts make up losses to their nutrition programs incurred throughout the pandemic.
During that announcement she took this jab at the Governor.
“We sent at least one, if not two, letters to the Governor asking for money to be allocated to the school nutritional program and never received a response,” said Fried.
And that comment has started what might be described as a political food fight.
Governor Ron DeSantis’ Office is pushing back against Fried’s claim.
In a statement the Governor’s Office told us, “We absolutely support providing funding for schools to make sure they can continue to provide nutrition programs, that is not what is up for debate. The fact is that without provocation, the Commissioner of Agriculture alleged that Governor DeSantis did not support this funding, or providing meals for students. This is unequivocally false. Again, the Governor’s Office authorized the budget amendment to make the funding possible.”
The Governor’s Office also pointed to $9 billion in direct federal emergency funding received by school districts, plus an additional $1.4 billion the Governor allocated himself.
His office said school districts had the ability to use that money how they saw fit, including on school lunch programs.
We did ask the Governor’s Office for specifics on many of the federal dollars were actually used for school lunch programs, but that number wasn’t readily available.
Regardless, Commissioner Fried said the Department of Agriculture found school districts had lost $262 million in nutritional funding in the 2020 school year, even with the federal dollars they received.
“Other Governors in other states like California gave $112 million from their CARES dollars, North Carolina $75 million, Kentucky $30 million. But unfortunately here in the State of Florida that didn’t happen,” said Fried.
The dispute seems to boil down to whether it’s better to let districts make their own decisions on how to spend relief funds, or to set aside a separate pot of money for the specific purpose of nutritional funding.

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