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Will food donations be enough to keep up with demand amid ongoing pandemic?

Feeding South Florida has seen 600 percent increase in demand since COVID-19 pandemic began

Feeding South Florida has seen 600 percent increase in demand since COVID-19 pandemic began
Feeding South Florida has seen 600 percent increase in demand since COVID-19 pandemic began

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla.Feeding South Florida has seen a 600 percent increase in demand since the coronavirus pandemic began, leading to a concern that food donations may eventually not be enough to keep up with the demand.

In just the last three weeks, Feeding South Florida distributed over 9 million pounds of food in the quad-county area, feeding about 160,000 households.

The organization distributed 5.5 million pounds of food during the same time frame last year.

“Feeding South Florida is definitely concerned that at some point, depending on how long this pandemic drags on, that we will run out of food,” the organization’s president and CEO, Paco Velez, said.

This year, Feeding South Florida has added another 130 food distributions on top of what they normally distribute with partner agencies each week to supplement closed agency sites, schools and meal sites.

Fresh produce, protein, dairy and shelf-stable items are available at distribution sites.

Volunteers have been capped at Feeding South Florida’s warehouse due to social distancing guidelines, but the organization still needs more money to continue buying food for families in need.

“The reality is if families that have an income right now go to a grocery store and there is no food on the shelves, they can wait a couple of days or go to a different grocery store and see if they have what they are looking for,” Velez said. “If families come to us that are relying on us right now because they have no income, and if Feeding South Florida runs out of food, unfortunately our families just don’t eat. So we don’t have the luxury of running out of food, and that is why we are relying on our community as much as possible to go online (to) Feedingsouthflorida.org and make those monetary donations if they can to make sure we are going out and getting the food that our families need.”

Organizers say the increased need for food will likely last for some time after the pandemic, as they expect it to take families 12 to 18 months to get back on their feet.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, over 120 million meals are missed every year in South Florida, and more than 700,000 people are “food insecure” -- not knowing from where their next meal will come.

In South Florida, 19 percent of children are food insecure and 240,000 go to bed hungry each night.

Statewide, 2.8 million people suffer from food insecurity, including 800,000 children, the department reported.

Velez is challenging the South Florida community to #PushUpFeedingSouthFlorida. To participate, simply do 19 push-ups, donate $19 and tag 19 friends to join you.

DJ David Guetta has also partnered with the Miami DDA to livestream a performance Saturday from an undisclosed location. Proceeds will benefit Feeding South Florida along with three other global charities to help support COVID-19 relief.

The livestream will be available on the Miami DDA’s Facebook and Instagram pages and through Guetta’s social media channels.

The burden for Feeding South Florida is new for the organization. Unlike during a hurricane when they can get more essentials from elsewhere, the coronavirus crisis is a worldwide issue impacting all supply delivery routes across the U.S.

Feeding South Florida also typically sees many businesses step in with large donations during hurricanes, but with so many businesses across various industries taking a financial hit, they say large donations have not been as prominent.

Click here to learn how to get involved with Feeding South Florida or to make a donation.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."