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Free Food For Children Over Holiday Break, As Schools Take On Food Insecurity Due To Coronavirus

Pasco County Schools photo of four children sitting outside a school building
Pasco County Schools
Some local schools are giving out free food to children over the holiday break.

Children can get a package of meals to feed them over the holiday break, thanks to a USDA-funded initiative that extends year-round what is normally a summer food program.

This week, schools across Florida are offering free meals that children can take home over the holiday break for the first time in recent memory. It comes as many people across the nation grapple with food insecurity and joblessness due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The program is funded by the US Department of Agriculture, and is aimed at helping families that are struggling financially.

It's open to all children 18 and under. Income verification is not required, but caregivers usually need to register in advance.

"As we all know through the pandemic, so many families are being impacted, so being able to feed everyone for free is really a benefit to everyone," said Sara Dan, Sarasota Schools director of food nutrition services.

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Around 800 parents had signed up in Sarasota County as of Tuesday. That's double the number who took advantage of the problem over Thanksgiving break, Dan said.

“We anticipated that the need would grow as people learned about it,” she added.

The deadline to sign up in Sarasota and Manatee counties is Thursday.

A supply of cold or frozen meals, including pizza, pancakes, and fresh fruit, will be handed out at selected schools.

See below for more information on food programs in area counties:

All families can pick up free meals Friday, December 18, from 4 to 6 p.m. Register by Thursday, December 17.

Please bring student ID, state ID, copy of report card or copy of a birth certificate.

Call 941-486-2199 with questions.

Meals need to be ordered by December 17 at www.ManateeSchools.net/CurbsideMeal

Parent/guardians can simply drive-up to receive the meals at the curbside, they do not need to get out of the car. Walk-ups are welcome, as well. These meals will contain frozen and refrigerated items. For cooking and heating instructions, visit www.ManateeSchoolFood.net.

  • Pick-Up Days: December 21 and 28
  • Pick-Up Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
  • Cost: FREE
  • Where to Pick-Up: Ballard Elementary, Buffalo Creek Middle, Daughtrey Elementary, Haile Middle, Lee Middle, Lincoln Memorial Acad., Manatee Elementary, Myakka Elementary, Samoset Elementary

Meals will be available to all children or teenagers in Pinellas County, 18 years old or younger.

Children do not need to be enrolled in PCS schools or be present for pickup.

Pinellas parents will pick-up seven days’ worth of meals – Breakfast, Lunch, PM Snack and Dinner.

No ID is required.

Meals will be available on a first come, first served basis.

Pickup is scheduled for Monday, December 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Winter Break Meal Bag distribution pickup times Wednesday have been changed to 8 am - 3 pm due to inclement weather.

As long as parents/guardians/students have a date of birth and student number, they do not need to pre-register for these meal bags to pick them up for Wednesday and Thursday. Distribution Thursday will be from 8 am - 12 pm.

Each bag contains 14 meals – enough food to serve breakfast and lunch for 7 days for one child.

Parents and guardians can reserve a meal bag, one per child, by filling out a form at www.surveymonkey.com/r/HCPSWinterBreakMealBag

Polk County Schools are not offering food distribution over the holiday break, according to a school spokesman.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.
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