Due to the global pandemic, families with children enrolled in public schools — regardless of household income — have received free school meals for their children for the past two years.
On Tuesday, July 26, 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDAC) released updates to the free and reduced-priced school meals and milk program.
The new guidelines indicate that children of families must be in a household that is at or below 130% of the federal poverty line to be eligible for free school meals.
HFUW Weighs In
Senior Vice President of Strategic Impact & Community Engagement at Heart of Florida United Way, Ray Larsen, expressed his concerns during a recent interview with Danielle Prieur of 90.7 WMFE — an NPR affiliate station.
During the interview, Ray discussed the vulnerability of ALICE families who may not qualify for free school meals under the new guidelines.
“Nearly half of the households in Central Florida are families that are working hard to try to make ends meet, meet their bills month to month, but are very vulnerable,” he said. “So, every challenge, every benefit that’s taken away makes it that much harder.”
Impact on ALICE Families
The federal poverty line does not encapsulate all families struggling to make ends meet in Central Florida. Therefore, these guidelines only capture a portion of those in need.
ALICE families living right above the poverty line — paycheck-to-paycheck — may begin to feel the pressure of food insecurity as their children approach the new school year.
Children of ALICE families are at risk without these benefits. Being unable to access free lunches, for example, may limit their exposure to proper nutrition, which is vital for their overall development. As a result, children are more likely to get sick and experience lower academic achievement.
What You Can Do
- Visit UnitedForALICE.org/Food-Introduction to learn about food insecurity in ALICE families
- Share our 211 database for families in need of food assistance resources in Central Florida
- Donate to Heart of Florida United Way so we can continue to combat food insecurity in Central Florida