TALLAHASSEE — The U.S. Department of Agriculture formally signed off on a plan to transfer public school food and nutrition programs in Florida to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The meal program has been managed by the Department of Education.
The change, lobbied for by new Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, passed the Legislature this year and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
But it needed the approval of the USDA, which bankrolls the nearly $1 billion program.
USDA officials cautioned they will monitor the program's transition and performance under Putnam's purview.
Florida becomes the third state with the arrangement, along with Texas and New Jersey. The USDA waiver is good for three years and begins in January.
"It's great news," Putnam said. "The last hurdle has been cleared, and we're full steam ahead."
Putnam said he wants to increase the number of servings of fruits and vegetables offered at schools, and that his agency and its connections to farmers make that more likely to happen.
In August he hired Robin Safley as director of the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness. She previously worked for the Department of Education and once ran a wellness program for schoolchildren in Leon, Jefferson, Wakulla and Gadsden counties.