Aug 4, 2022
Tallahassee, Fla. — Today, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried issued the following statement after Governor Ron DeSantis falsely claimed that President Joe Biden is “threatening to take away lunch money from poor kids as punishment for protecting women’s sports”:
“Governor DeSantis is the deranged one for using hungry kids in this political stunt. He is lying. Period. The National School Lunch Program has nothing to do with bathrooms, locker rooms, or sports. Our department passed on nondiscrimination guidelines from the federal government — which only apply to the lunch line — saying that children can’t be discriminated against by being denied meals at school. That’s it. Nothing else. If he really cared so much about feeding kids, he would have applied for available federal supplemental child nutrition funding — which I’ve been calling on him to do for months. Now that’s deranged.
“For Governor DeSantis, this isn’t about the well-being of kids in Florida — it’s just another culture war for him to wage to score political points to run for President. The only people who are inappropriately imposing sexuality in schools are Republicans who seem to be obsessed with which bathrooms kids are using. It’s perverted and deeply inappropriate. Governor DeSantis should be ashamed of himself and parents should be concerned about why he and his administration seem to be intent on sexualizing every aspect of schooling in Florida.”
Background: Last week, Commissioner Fried held a press conference in response to guidance from the Florida Department of Education encouraging schools to disobey updated federal nondiscrimination guidance from the USDA. The guidance from the USDA requires schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program to hang a poster with an updated nondiscrimination statement in their school food service area. The Florida Department of Education is encouraging schools to defy this guidance in violation of federal law. Video of the press conference is available here. The updated nondiscrimination guidance provided by the USDA and disseminated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) can be found here. The memo from Education Commissioner Manny Diaz encouraging schools to violate federal law can be found here.
Ending child hunger has been one of Commissioner Fried’s top priorities during her time in office. Last year, after many roadblocks from the DeSantis Administration, Commissioner Fried secured $1 billion dollars for supplemental meals for Florida children through the federal P-EBT program. The program is still active and Commissioner Fried has repeatedly encouraged the DeSantis Administration to apply for a new round of available summer assistance for hungry children, but they have yet to do so. When schools closed due to COVID-19, she activated the BreakSpot program administered by FDACS early, which served 74 million meals to Florida kids from March through August 2020. Commissioner Fried advocated for using federal COVID relief funds to support school nutrition and secured $93.2 million for Florida school districts and successfully requested the Biden Administration consider establishing universal school meals for children.