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Stealing food and selling it online for a profit: Some Hillsborough County students left without free meals this week

Hillsborough County Superintendent says individuals were picking up meals from multiple locations and then selling the food online.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Public Schools switched to their once-a-week food pickup Wednesday to reduce contact between Student Nutrition Services workers and families. Unfortunately as a result, countless families waited hours in line to be told there was no food left.

Parent Gayle Jedlicka spent nearly two hours at two different pick-up locations, “Just dedicating going out there and trying to get food and getting denied. When you know I could have been doing school with them, or finishing up school with them. And I couldn’t do that because we were waiting in line.”

Hillsborough County Public schools distributed 920,000 meals Wednesday. A number they believe should be enough to feed every student in need for one week. But before 1 p.m., many of those meals were gone.

Superintendent Addison Davis says there were a couple reasons to blame. 

“Some of our constituents were coming through the line and visiting multiple schools and taking away food from children in need," said Davis. "A number of the food that we extending to our community members as well were being sold on social media.”

Parents like Jedlicka were frustrated to learn the reason why they don't have meals for their kids for the week. “Then you see there’s parents hoarding and selling food online and that really upsets me because that’s food that should be food for children, not for parents selling online.”

Jedlicka's children receive free breakfast and lunch throughout the school year. But her family needs these meals now more than ever after she lost her job on March 18 due to COVID-19. 

“I have yet to receive unemployment. And I am only one income because I’m a single mom of three. So I don’t get a lot of help. But like so with this school lunches, it definitely helps out," she said.

At this point, Hillsborough County Public Schools does not plan on increasing the number of meals available next week, but will instead be looking at distribution and ways to prevent hoarding.

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