MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – In a place known for glorious sunsets and outdoor adventures, one might not imagine some people struggle to put food on their tables.
In Wednesday’s Day of Giving report, Local 10 News’ Betty Davis introduces the Star of the Sea Foundation and its work to help families in the Florida Keys.
The Keys are known as a beautiful vacation destination for many around the world, but for those at home, the ebb and flow of tourism makes living in paradise pricey.
“Monroe County has for years claimed the highest cost of living and the highest food cost index in the state of Florida,” said Lisa Niederman, Director of Programs for Star of the Sea. “When we’re out of season, which is usually the summer months and through September, it’s just a little more difficult to make ends meet because there’s not that steady income.”
When income is tight, Keys workers can find relief at Saint Justin the Martyr Church, where Star of the Sea Foundation, the largest food nonprofit in the Florida Keys, runs a weekly food distribution.
“We are a client choice food pantry which means that clients can walk through the pantry and choose what items they want to take. This is a great way to reduce food waste,” explained Niederman. “Over the past few months we’ve been seeing an average of 130 families per week.”
That’s a 30 percent increase from last year.
“I think the inflation in the past year has compounded that,” she said.
And while demand has increased, individual giving and government food allotments have not.
“Our donations have gone down about 40 percent since last year,” Niederman said. “We would really appreciate a strong community support this holiday season.”
Star of the Sea needs shelf-stable thanksgiving items to supplement the food they already receive and provide a complete holiday meal to the families it serves.
“Non-perishables are extremely important to our clients and food pantry,” Niederman said. “I’d say it’s about a 60 percent non-perishable and 40 percent perishable distribution each week.
“We’re really here to support anyone in need.”
For more information on how you can help the South Florida community, visit Local 10′s Day of Giving page by clicking here.