Dark Days in The Sunshine State
An average of 22.7% of Florida children go hungry every single day. In the land of plenty, the fact that any child goes hungry is despicable.
by Susan E. Stutz
Food security. If you do not know what that means, then you are in all likelihood lucky enough to know where your next meal is coming from. Unfortunately, there are 2.1 million children in the state of Florida who are all too familiar with this phrase as well as a rumbling, empty, belly. Putting COVID aside, an average of 22.7% of Florida children go hungry every single day. In the land of plenty, the fact that any child goes hungry is despicable.
In March of last year, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was enacted by Congress. Among its many benefits was the inclusion of more than $820,000,000 to provide food to Florida’s children who were being homeschooled as a result of the virus. Those funds were meant to ensure that millions of Florida’s children who relied on school meals—breakfast, lunch, and a snack—did not lose that benefit as a result of school closures. For many children, the free or reduced-price meal they received at school is the only meal that they could count on having on any given day. In addition to providing school meals, this benefit included funds that could also be used by needy families at local grocery stores.
In May 2020, DeSantis lauded the Trump administration for “allowing states to identify gaps in services and develop new and needed programs that will help parents be reassured that their children will continue to receive healthy lunches although the school year is completed.” Fast forward 15 months, and it seems that whatever compassion for Florida’s school-age children DeSantis may have had in the age of Trump, it has dissipated without so much as a fare-thee-well.
As of this summer, 1-in-5 cases of COVID19 nationwide are in Florida alone. Think about that. One out of every five people who have the virus across the entire country, live in Florida. And, while the pandemic continues to rage through the Sunshine State, and with children being quarantined by the hundreds in almost every school district in the state (children and teens are the hardest hit population in the state of Florida), DeSantis has failed to re-apply for the additional P-EBT funds. Florida is the only state who has not reapplied for this benefit. This inaction means that 2.1 million children will go to bed tonight hungry. And, they will wake up tomorrow with rumbling bellies that may not be filled.
Last month, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried wrote to Governor DeSantis reminding him of the needs of Florida’s children; however, DeSantis has remained silent, offering no explanation whatsoever for his failure to reapply. Thankfully, following a tremendous outcry, DeSantis reversed course and applied for the benefits. For a politician who campaigns on his anti-choice values, it is apparent that his rhetoric is for those children who are not yet in existence. He cares little for the children we already have.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you know needs food assistance, you can send SNAP to 50409 for information on how to apply for benefits. You can also send food to 50409 for information about food banks in your area.
If you have a little extra that you can share, consider donating money to a local food bank or pantry.