School district cracks down on free meal program after suspecting people sold food online

Florida district food

A Florida school district that provides free meals to students in the county has retooled its program following suspicion that some people were picking up extra food and selling it online.

The Hillsborough County School District’s new free meal program will require parents to provide their child’s name and birth date or their student ID number when picking up their week’s worth of food.

“It’s a shame that a few of our community members would go to multiple sites, take food away from children and seek to build their financial portfolio on children who will not have food today,” Superintendent Addison Davis said in a statement to CNN.

The suspicion started last week, when staff saw a “significant increase” in the number of meals served across the district, which includes Tampa, district spokeswoman Tanya Arja told CNN. Sites were running out of food.

Staff distributing the meals started to notice adults arrive to pick up meals with “our food already in their car,” Arja said.

“So it was evident they visited multiple sites and received multiple bags of food,” she said.

District officials were sent screenshots of several loaves of bread and chocolate milk cartons that had been provided by the district. The screenshots show that the items were advertised as free, but Arja said users would have to click to make an “offer” on them.

So the district revamped its grab-and-go program: To pick up their week’s worth of meals, parents must provide their child’s name and birth date or their student ID number. They can’t pick up more than their children’s share.

Nearly half of the students in Hillsborough County are eligible for free or reduced lunch, Florida Department of Education records show.

But the county’s free food program is open to anyone under the age of 18, regardless of whether they were a public school student. The meals include a pound of lunch meat, a loaf of bread, 10 cartons of milk, plus juice, cereal and other familiar cafeteria fare.