man receiving free food Many Florida food pantries are overwhelmed by the growing demand for food.
Image via Shutterstock.

Many families already feeling the stress of losing their jobs are now enduring growing “food insecurity.”

As job losses due to COVID-19 continue to skyrocket and hundreds of thousands of people go weeks without earning a paycheck, putting food on the table has become a growing concern for many Floridians across the state. 

In addition to the stress of living in the midst of a pandemic that has forced workers to stay home, many families are not only feeling the strain of not having enough food, but are in fact experiencing outright hunger. In fact, according to a study on “Food Insecurity” conducted by the University of Arkansas in March, nearly 4 in 10 of the 10,000 people surveyed across the nation “had too little to eat or difficulty obtaining healthy foods.”

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Feeding South Florida alone has seen a 600% increase in the demand for donated food, according to Abbie Lipton, a spokesperson for the food bank affiliated to Feeding America, a nationwide nonprofit organization feeding more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies. 

“Prior to the pandemic, the organization served 706,000 individuals through its direct-service programs,” Lipton told The Americano. But during the COVID-19 pandemic Feeding South Florida is seeing approximately 1,000,000 individuals in need of assistance. The organization is currently serving over 265,000 individuals per week throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. 

“Additionally, in an effort to supplement closed agency sites, schools, and other meal sites, Feeding South Florida added another 155 food distributions, on top of what we normally distribute, with our partner agencies each week,” said Lipton.

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Minorities Hit Hardest

Blacks and Latinos, especially those in Southern states like Florida, have been especially impacted by job loss due to the novel coronavirus, and what Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., calls “food insecurity.” This describes a condition when a person is uncertain of their ability to buy food, has to cut back on the size or frequency of meals, or is actually forced to skip a day’s — or more — worth of meals.

As more families resort to food banks and feeding programs, these resources are becoming overwhelmed and finding it difficult to meet the increasing demand. At the same time, with the closing of restaurants and other food serving businesses, the supply chain that takes food from the farm to the table has been broken. Florida was especially hit hard by coronavirus as farmers are experiencing losses estimated at $500 million dollars “and millions of pounds of locally grown produce is left in the fields unused,’ Nikki Freid, Florida Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, told The Americano.

Better Planning Is Needed

Kevin Fitzpatrick, a sociology professor and lead researcher for the study on “food insecurity” conducted by the University of Arkansas, believes the country needs to plan ahead of time for these crises. There are several ways to do this, but one way that especially impacts Florida is by developing a supply chain from farm to table that can ensure that farmers don’t lose crops. In this way farmers don’t lose their income and families, especially minorities who usually take the brunt of the crises, “don’t lose vital healthy foods that sustain them during these types of crises,” he added.

Where to Find Help

• To find your local food bank visit Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization with a network of 200 member food banks across the country.

• To apply for emergency Food Stamps (SNAP) go to https://www.usa.gov/food-help#item-35787

• Visit Feeding Florida at https://www.feedingflorida.org/taking-action/find-food-now/

• Visit Feeding South Florida at https://feedingsouthflorida.org/

• For a list of resources visit the Hispanic Federation (HF), the nation’s premier Latino nonprofit organization that seeks to empower and advance the Hispanic community, support Hispanic families, and strengthen Latino institutions through work in education, health, immigration, economic empowerment, and the environment, among others areas. 

• If you’re caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease, a child with special needs, or need help with a spouse who has a disability, you can find how to get financial and emotional support at USA.Gov.

• If you need help feeding your pets, Generation Wags lets you find a pet food pantry in your state. 

• To make a donation to Feeding Florida, visit https://www.feedingflorida.org/taking-action/donate