DeSantis and Fried clash in food battle for school meal funds


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) – Gov. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, are in a food battle over school lunch funding.

Fried says the governor ignored his request to direct emergency funding to make up for pandemic-related losses to school district nutrition programs, but the governor says he has always helped.

This week, Commissioner Fried announced that she had secured $ 93 million to help school districts offset losses in their nutrition programs incurred throughout the pandemic.

During this announcement, she threw this blow at the governor: “We have sent at least one, if not two, letters to the governor asking him to allocate money to the school nutrition program and have never received a response.” , said Fried.

And that comment sparked what could be described as a political struggle for food.

Governor Ron DeSantis’s office rejects Fried’s request.

In a statement, the governor’s office told us, “We absolutely support funding schools to make sure they can continue to provide nutrition programs, that is not what is debated. The point is that without provocation, the Agriculture Commissioner alleged that Governor DeSantis had not supported this funding, nor provided meals for the students. This is unequivocally wrong. Again, the governor’s office authorized the budget amendment to make funding possible.

The governor’s office also highlighted $ 9 billion in direct federal emergency funding received by school districts, plus an additional $ 1.4 billion the governor allocated to himself.

His office said school districts have the flexibility to use that money as they see fit, including for school lunch programs.

We asked the governor’s office for details of most of the federal dollars that were actually used for school lunch programs, but this number was not readily available.

Regardless, Commissioner Fried said the Agriculture Department found that school districts lost $ 262 million in nutrition funding in the 2020 school year, even with the federal dollars they they received.

“Other governors from other states like California gave $ 112 million of their CARES dollars, North Carolina $ 75 million, Kentucky $ 30 million. But unfortunately, here in the state of Florida, that didn’t happen, ”Fried said.

The dispute seems to boil down to whether it is better to let districts make their own decisions about how to spend relief funds, or to set aside a separate pot of money for specific nutrition funding purposes.

Copyright 2021 Capitol News Service. All rights reserved.

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