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Children's Summer Nutrition bill passes

Children's Summer Nutrition bill passes

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Children's Summer Nutrition bill passes

June 10, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0310}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham*

TALLAHHASSEE — Children attend the "One Voice for Children" press conference April 7 in Tallahassee in support of the Children's Summer Nutrition bill. Photo by Meredyth Earnest, Photo #05-0187.

ORLANDO — The 2005 Florida State Legislature passed the Children's Summer Nutrition bill at its recent legislative session, voting in favor of helping meet the needs of the state's children.

The bill became law after three years of legislative maneuvering, according to Debra Susie, executive director of Florida Impact, one of the bill's strongest supporters and advocates. 

"In one sweep, the state will be in a position to feed more children, import more federal tax dollars and generate a positive impact on our local communities' summer economies while maintaining local autonomy," Susie said in an e-mail message to supporters of the bill.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives passed the bill a week before the end of the Florida State Legislature's 60-day session, which began March 8. Governor Jeb Bush signed the bill May 26.

The law requires that each school board provide children of low-income families with at least one food site in the district that is open for 35 days of the summer. The site must be within five miles of an elementary school where eligibility for free and reduced-price school meals is at 50 percent or more. The law also requires additional summer food sites within 10 miles of the remainder of elementary schools where more than half of the students attending are from low-income families. 

School boards may opt out through an exemption in the bill, but those that do are required to annually vote on the issue at a public school board meeting.

Susie says Florida ranks second among states that do not use all of the federal dollars available to it for summer child nutrition.

"Only 13 percent of the approximately one million children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals are served by the federally underwritten Summer Food Service Program," she said. "And children in half a dozen Florida counties had no access at all last summer. This translates into many at-risk children and $106 million in federal tax dollars that never return to Florida."

Other groups actively supported the bill, including the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, United Way of Florida, Florida Association of Jewish Federations and Florida Catholic Conference. Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and the conference's United Methodist Women (UMW) were among them.

Whitaker and Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Alabama-West Florida Conference attended an inter-religious legislative briefing April 6-7 to urge lawmakers to make summer nutrition for children a priority, in keeping with the Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty. Called "One Voice for Children," the briefing was designed to raise awareness about children's issues and scheduled as part of the United Way of Florida's annual Children's Week.

The two bishops and members of the Florida Conference's UMW also attended a press conference April 7 with the bill's sponsors, Rep. Ron Greenstein (D-Ft. Lauderdale) and Senator Steve Wise (R-Jacksonville), along with other United Methodists, children, legislators and representatives from a variety of churches and denominations.

Florida Impact works to reduce hunger and poverty in Florida. It educates and enlists Floridians in securing justice for and with those whose economic rights have not been realized. The organization works to increase access to food programs by conducting aggressive outreach strategies and public policy advocacy.

A listing of summer food sponsors in each community is located in the Florida Food Resource Directory on the Florida Impact Web site at

(Debra Susie, executive director of Florida Impact, provided information for this article.)


This article relates to Church and Society.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.