Florida Schools Help Feed Students During Hurricane Irma-Related Closures

By Denisa R. Superville — September 15, 2017 2 min read
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In many high poverty districts, students rely on free meals at school. But with Hurricane Irma shutting down more than half of Florida’s school districts, K-12 officials have been finding ways to keep students fed, even as they work to get schools up and running.

In Orange County, the district drove food buses and trucks to select schools this week to provide meals to those under 18 years of age. Through Thursday, the district’s staff had distributed about 3,000 lunches to students. By Friday morning, the district’s food trucks had completed nine distributions in the hardest hit locations, according to officials in the school system that includes the city of Orlando.

The district said it received an emergency waiver from the state department of agriculture to distribute the food while school was not in session.

Similarly, Miami-Dade officials have been out in some of the neighborhoods hit hardest by the storm to hand out meals to students and families. While Miami was spared a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, heavy rains led to flooding in some areas of the city. At one point on Sunday, more than half of Miami-Dade and neighboring Broward counties had no power, the Miami-Herald reported. Florida Power & Light was hoping to restore electricity to all its customers in Miami by Sunday, according to the Miami Herald.

Miami-Dade is aiming to open schools Monday, but if that does not happen, district officials will continue to serve free meals to students and families as long as schools remain closed, said Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, a district spokesperson.

The district planned to dish out hot meals at 11 schools on Friday, she said. Students and families will have access to options ranging from pizza to arroz con pollo. The district provided free meals, including breakfast packages, to 30,000 residents on Thursday.

About 73 percent of Miami-Dade’s students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. However, every student in the district has access to free breakfast, Gonzalez-Diego said.

As districts continue to recover from the storm, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho offered to enroll students from hard-hit Monroe County—home to the Florida Keys—in Miami’s schools.

Monroe County’s schools are closed indefinitely. Mark Porter, the Monroe County’s superintendent, said he appreciated Carvalho’s offer, but he hoped to have his system up and running soon and have his students back in school “in the very near future.” Porter, however, accepted Carvalho’s offer for Monroe County district staff to work out of Miami-Dade’s offices.


Students get free meals at Orlo Vista Elementary School in Orlando, Fla., this week while district officials work to re-open schools after Hurricane Irma struck the state. --Courtesy of Orange County Public Schools

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was among the workers from the school district who dished out hot meals at Booker T. Washington High School on Friday to families affected by Hurricane Irma. --Courtesy of Miami-Dade Public Schools

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.