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“Very difficult”: Florida opts out of federal grocery subsidy for 2 million low-income children

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Food service assistant Brenda Bartee, rear, gives students breakfast at Washington Elementary School in Riviera Beach, Fla., iin August, 2021.

WLRN Public Media, June 2024

Florida has opted out of a federal program that nonprofits say could decrease food insecurity for low-income families during the summer, when children no longer have easy access to school meals. State officials decided not to participate in SUN Bucks, which would have given qualifying families $120 per child for grocery expenses. It was one of 13 states to opt out of the program, all of them led by Republican governors. The decision surprised Madelyn Llanes, executive director for Centro Mater Childcare Center in Little Havana, who told WLRN families need all the help they can get — particularly with the current affordability crisis. “Healthy food is so expensive because of the cost of living [and] rent,” Llanes said. “Especially when you have two or three kids – it becomes very, very difficult.”

While the child food insecurity rate has been declining, according to government health data, more than 13% of children in South Florida experienced food insecurity in 2021. According to No Kid Hungry, over 2.1 million children in Florida would have benefitted from SUN Bucks, which is also known as Summer EBT. Officials for Florida’s Department of Children and Families say existing programs are enough — and argue that the federal program came with “strings attached” in the shape of operational costs that would be shared with the state.

Continue reading at WLRN Public Media.

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