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Here's how Tampa Bay school districts are feeding students while COVID-19 concerns close schools

It is important to read your student's school district's information carefully as each response varies.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After the Florida Department of Education directed schools across the state to shut down for two weeks due to coronavirus related concerns, some families are now searching for ways to ensure their children don’t go hungry.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) reports, during the 2018-2019 school year, Florida schools served more than 286 million school lunches. 

Of those, more than 245 million were free or reduced price lunches. 

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced on Sunday her department has activated its Summer Breakspot website to help families find where they can receive free meals for kids under 18 during coronavirus school closures. 

To find sites in their area, families must visit the website and enter their zip code. A map will show all the areas within a 5-50 mile radius that are distributing food. 

“Social distancing and avoiding crowded areas, like school cafeterias, are critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But we can’t let Florida’s children go hungry in the meantime,” Commissioner Nikki Fried said. "For many children, these meals will be the only meals they can count on, so we’re encouraging families to take advantage of this service.”

There are currently 934 active BreakSpot sites in the state of Florida.

Schools in the Tampa Bay area are set to re-open on April 15.

Here is what your school district is doing to make sure students are fed:

Hillsborough County: 

Hillsborough County Public Schools will expand it's “Grab and Go” meal sites to 147 school locations. Currently, the school district is operating 23 sites.

Starting March 30, anyone 18 years old and younger will be able to get a meal.

Each location will serve food starting at 9 a.m. and will remain open until 1 p.m. daily. Students are only allowed to receive food once a day -- each meal includes both a breakfast and lunch portion. 

Bus drivers and staff will also transport meals and instructional materials into neighborhoods. 

During the first week, the school district served nearly 84,000 meals. Sixty-three percent of students in Hillsborough County qualify for free and reduced-price meals.

You can find a full list of meal distribution sites here

Pasco County:

Pre-packaged meals, lunch and breakfast, for five days will be available on Tuesdays at 25 Pasco County Schools sites. The school district will also be launching 16 bus stop feeding sites for students in the county.

Beginning March 31, each student can visit one of these sites to receive five days worth of breakfast and lunch. The county is switching over to only completing distribution on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

But, if you intend to use one of the bus stop sites you'll need to report to the stop at a specific time between 11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The bus will stay at each stop for approximately 10 minutes. 

Your student must be present to receive the meals.

Credit: Pasco County Schools

Pinellas County:

Pinellas County Schools announces it will distribute food for students once a week instead of several times a week. It is in an effort to limit the number of essential errands people are running -- and limiting the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

A full week's worth of food will be provided on Wednesdays, the district said. Here is the following schedule:

  • Monday, April 13: 2 days worth of meals
  • Wednesday, April 15: 4 days worth of meals
  • Monday, April 20: 2 days worth of meals
  • Wednesday, April 22: 6 days worth of meals
  • Wednesday, April 29: 6 days worth of meals

Visit pcsb.org/foodlocations for more.

SCHOOL MEALS UPDATE: We will be reducing the number of days that our... Food & Nutrition department distributes meals to comply with CDC guidelines that recommend limiting essential errands to help slow the spread of COVID-19. There will not be a reduction in the number of meals provided each week.

Polk County: 

Students 18 and under will be provided lunches by Polk County Schools during the closure.

The distribution will be similar to the procedures they follow during the summer.

A law enforcement officer and school safety guardian will be present at each meal distribution site to ensure safe and orderly preparation and distribution of meals.

Each distribution site will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children must be present to receive a meal and the meal cannot be consumed on-site.

Schools will have a drive-up process to provide students with meals; no one will need to get out of their cars. Anyone who does not have a car will have access to a walk-up section.

Meal distribution locations can be found here.

Manatee County:

Food and Nutrition Services with the School District of Manatee County will start distribution on March 30 and continue until April 15.  

Children 18 and under will receive breakfast and lunch in a "Grab n' Go" style pickup. Each sites hours vary, but fall between 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

Your child must be in the car when you drive up to one of the school, community or bus distribution sites.

The school district suggests checking their site list regularly as locations and operation times are subject to change. 

Highlands County:

The school district is offering no-cost meals to those 18 years old and under during the coronavirus closure. 

Sites are set up at all county school campuses and operate as both drive-thru and walk-up sites. 

You are preferred to have your child with you when you receive the meal, though the district is now allowing parents to register for meal pick up for times their child may not be present. 

You are asked to contact their food services department at 863-471-5676 adn someone will walk you through the steps. 

Citrus County:

Students can get a meal daily from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting March 30 from one of the school district's 11 sites. Children must be in the car to receive a meal.

Meals include one breakfast for the next day and one lunch.

The school district will also be using a 35 bus route stops to help get meals to those in need. Distribution times for these stops are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

The distribution sites can be found here, bus route distribution locations can be found here.

Hernando County:

No-cost breakfast and lunch will be provided to those 18 years and younger throughout the school districts closure. 

Your child must be present to receive a meal, the county cannot accommodate otherwise.

Drive-thru sites are open Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.at 14 different schools. There will also be school busses and vans running during the week to distribute meals at various spots across the county. 

A list of meal sites can be found here

Hardee County:

Hardee County Schools are inviting all of their students to go to their school’s parent drop-off area to receive lunch and breakfast for the following day.

“Any child that arrives to our schools will be offered meals regardless of whether they are public school students, private school students, homeschooled students, or virtual school students,” the district said.

Students and parents will stay in their cars while the meals are distributed. 

Meal distribution will begin the week of March 23.

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