Families not utilizing free school breakfast programs in Osceola County

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OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - School kitchens across Osceola County are stocked and ready with breakfast foods that are available for free to every single student, but an informal survey done by Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez found most parents weren't aware of the program.

Other parents told Channel 9 they just can't get their kids to school in time for the free meal.

On any given day at Partin Settlement Elementary School, students can have waffles, pancakes, a breakfast pizza or cereal.

In fact, there's enough food in the freezer and storage room to feed every single one of the school's 800 kids for free, but only 200 kids showed up on Wednesday.

The low turnout is not just a problem at Partin but other schools, as well. There are 57,000 students in Osceola County, but only 18,000 are taking advantage of the free breakfast.

Nutrition services director Raw Hollenbeck said that incredibly, thousands of kids are still coming to school on empty stomachs.

"They still go to the clinic. They're (having) behavioral problems. They can't sit still. All of these are signs that they're hungry," said Hollenbeck.

It's a problem the district is working to solve, and its timing is crucial. About 32 percent of students in the county come from families on food stamps, and the program is facing major cuts, which means the need for meals will be greater.

School leaders will be meeting on Friday on the issue.

Universal Free Breakfast Program 407-870-4678