As Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, directing more locally grown products to Florida’s school cafeterias and encouraging healthy eating habits is one of my top priorities.
The vast majority of Florida’s agricultural bounty is in season during Florida’s school year, which allows our state to connect our world-class growers with our school children who need nutritious fuel to succeed. And with the help of Florida’s farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, our department helps provide nutritious meals to nearly 3 million kids a day during the school year.
But while school is out for the summer, some children struggle to access wholesome meals that Florida agriculture provides. In order to bridge this gap for Florida’s children, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers the Summer BreakSpot program.
The Summer BreakSpot program connects children with nutritious food by partnering with local entities, such as community centers, churches, the Boys & Girls Club, and the YMCA. In addition to providing access to meals, many of our partners provide recreational and educational opportunities. By providing essential fuel and a safe environment for constructive activities, the Summer BreakSpot program helps to give children the environment and resources they need to succeed.
The success of this program is dependent on our ability to reach students where they live and play during the summer months. Our department has worked diligently to address this challenge. Since taking over the program, the number of meals served through Summer BreakSpot sites has increased by 41%, and we are continuing on this upward trend. Last summer, the program provided more than 15.5 million meals to more than 300,000 children in need throughout Florida.
Children deserve the best start they can get in life, and research shows there is a direct connection between nutrition and academic success. By providing healthy meals year-round, we can enhance their academic performance and the early successes that lead to a lifetime of achievement.
Thank you for working day in and day out to provide the fuel necessary for academic success during the school year and summer months.