‘It’s very heartbreaking’: Need for meals increasing during pandemic

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – More than 500 cars lined up by about 7 a.m. Monday outside of the Vann Academy in Sweetwater for a Farm Share food distribution event. It was scheduled to start at 9 a.m., but it began at 8:15 a.m. instead.

Later Monday afternoon, a steady stream of cars flowed into Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School for a student meal distribution.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to loom, the number of people who need food is rising. More people are being furloughed, losing their jobs or burning through their rainy-day funds.

If the numbers tell the story of need in Miami-Dade County, they’re perhaps most striking at the schools.

The week of March 16-20, Miami-Dade County Public Schools distributed 222,518 meals across all its district schools.

The next week, that number was 219,506 at 50 schools.

But then last week, from April 6-9, 374,565 meals were distributed at 50 schools. On Thursday alone, 200,723 were given out, as extra meals were provided the day before Good Friday in hopes of tiding families over through the Easter holiday weekend.

“It’s very heartbreaking to see what we are going through,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz said. “But thank God most of us have our health and we can help others.”

At the Sweetwater distribution, which wasn’t only for students, police officers helped to guide cars outside of the school. Drivers opened their trunks and volunteers placed items as fast as they could inside.

Mayor Orlando Lopez said the need is great in his city. “This is our fourth week running now that we do this,” he said.

WHERE TO GO: Miami-Dade County Public Schools student meal distribution sites

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