Miami food distribution site forced to turn away people in need during coronavirus pandemic

MIAMI – Raul Nuñez said he lost his job and he doesn’t have any money to buy groceries for his family. Elvis Paniagua said he is waiting for a response to his application for unemployment benefits.

And like them, there were many more hotel and restaurant employees who are suffering through the coronavirus pandemic waiting at a food distribution site on Tuesday in Miami.

As the line got longer at 3250 SW 3rd Ave., near Coral Way, volunteers for the United Way of Miami and Feeding South Florida decided to start the food distribution event early.

Maria Alonso, the chief executive officer of United Way of Miami, said they were prepared with groceries for 100 families. The supply wasn’t enough. They were forced to close while drivers were still waiting outside. Alonso wasn’t surprised.

“We had over 524,000 households in Miami that were already struggling to make ends meet, living from paycheck to paycheck and on the edge of poverty,” Alonso said.

Alonso cited a United Way of Florida’s study released before the spread of COVID-19, a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus. Epidemiologists’ mitigation strategies to save lives have shut down the tourism economy in South Florida.

Alonso said it was the first food distribution United Way of Miami held during the pandemic and it won’t be the last one.

The United Way is in need of volunteers and not all of them have to be brave enough to work at the food distribution events. Some can volunteer from home.

For more information about how to get involved, visit the United Way of Miami page and the Feeding South Florida page.

Cars began lining up over eight hours early for a food drive at Magic City Casino.

Here is a list of areas in Miami-Dade County with a high percentage of families estimated to be suffering from poverty:

Medley: 88%

Opa-locka: 88%

Brownsville: 87%

Florida City: 84%

Gladeview: 84%

Naranja: 81%

Goulds: 79%

Hialeah: 78%

Pinewood: 78%

Leisure City: 76%

Westview: 76%

West Little River: 72%

Sweetwater: 72%

North Miami: 71%

North Miami Beach: 70%

Golden Glades: 70%

Miami: 70% - The city includes the areas of Little Haiti, Little Havana, Liberty City, Overtown and Allapattah.

Source: United Way of Florida’s Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed Report

About the Authors:

Layron Livingston made the move from Ohio's Miami Valley to Miami, Florida, to join the Local 10 News team.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.