Child Nutrition in Florida

Good nutrition is critically important to children for foundational development. Hungry children are often lethargic, unable to concentrate in class and are more likely to become ill. The nutrition available to a child has serious implications on their future mental and physical health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Unfortunately, more than 1.1 million children in Florida don’t have consistent access to enough nutritious food and are vulnerable to the potential long-term effects of food insecurity.

  • 1.1 Million or 27.6% of Florida children are food insecure.
  • 15.9 Million or 21.6% children nationwide are food insecure
  • More than half, 1.57 Million of Florida school children, relied on free or reduced school lunches in 2012.
  • Many of these school children do not receive adequate food and nutrition over the weekend and vacation to be productive students when returning to school.
  • Only about 10% of children receiving free or reduced lunch  also received assistance with summer meals in 2012.

One Problem, Many Solutions

Most children eat what’s convenient and available. When food and proper nutrition is missing from their day, their futures become compromised. There is no one size fits all solution because of the uniqueness of every family and every community. Food Banks have developed several programs that adapt the resources available to the needs of the people they serve. Since every community is different, not all programs are offered through every Food Bank. Here are just a few of the programs offered through our Network.

  • Backpack Programs - During the school year, easy to prepare items are purchased by the food banks and sorted by volunteers into packs for distribution to schools who then provide the backpack to at-risk children. These packs provide enough food to fuel their weekend so kids are alert, focused and ready to learn when they return to school.
  • Kids Cafes - Kids Cafe programs provide free meals and snacks to low-income children at a variety of community locations where children already congregate during the after-school hours—such as Boys and Girls Clubs, churches or public schools. In addition to providing meals to kids, some Kids Cafe programs also offer a safe place, where under the supervision of trustworthy staff, a child can get involved in educational, recreational and social activities. All Kids Cafe programs also offer nutrition education throughout the school year.
  • Mobile Pantries - A mobile pantry is a method of direct client distribution either working with a local agency to expand their capacity or operated independently by the Food Bank to reach areas that may not be served by a community partner. This method is often used to focus on communities where children are at high risk of food insecurity. The mobile pantry allows for higher quantity and quality of food for struggling families.
  • School Pantries - These pantries are located in schools ranging from elementary to college. They provide a consistent and accessible source of food for students and families that may have challenges acquiring food through other community agencies or pantries.
  • Nutrition Programs - As a component of many of the feeding programs, basic nutrition and health education is provided. Eating well means eating a healthy diet.
  • Cooking Programs - Eating well often requires knowing how to cook. Many individuals lack the skills necessary to prepare and enjoy some healthy items like fresh fruits and vegetables. Food banks offer everything from recipes and preparation materials to group cooking classes for children and adults.
  • Summer Meals and Snacks - Summer’s not fun when you’re hungry. It’s estimated that around 10% of students that rely on free or reduced lunches receive food through the Summer Food Service Program. SFSP is a federally funded program that is administered in Florida through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Food Banks throughout the state work with their partners to develop sites where meals can be provided to kids who are at risk of food insecurity during the summer vacation. These feeding sites can be public school cafeterias, community centers, parks and even modified school busses designed to provide a safe and sheltered location for serving meals and providing educational enrichment activities.

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