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Need for free food during coronavirus pandemic ‘has only gotten worse,' commissioner says

HIALEAH GARDENS, Fla. – Drivers in need during the coronavirus pandemic started to arrive at about 2 a.m. on Wednesday to Hialeah Gardens High School. Within a few hours, an L-shaped line of cars curved from Hialeah Gardens Boulevard and stretched on Okeechobee Road.

Volunteers were waiting when Farm Share, a non-profit organization that partners with farmers, sent a semi-truck from Homestead. It arrived after sunrise. Volunteers organized the food for two drive-through lines.

A Farm Share truck arrives early Wednesday morning to Hialeah Gardens from the non-profit organization's warehouse in Homestead.
A Farm Share truck arrives early Wednesday morning to Hialeah Gardens from the non-profit organization's warehouse in Homestead. (Local 10 News)

The distribution began at 8 a.m. Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz and Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz greeted drivers and helped volunteers to load groceries.

“We thought by now, this was going to be a thing that we wouldn’t be having to be doing anymore, but unfortunately, it has only gotten worse -- the need that is out there,” Diaz said.

Farm Share volunteers distribute food on Wednesday morning in Hialeah Gardens.
Farm Share volunteers distribute food on Wednesday morning in Hialeah Gardens. (SKY 10)

De La Cruz agreed. He said the city is distributing about 4,500 baskets of food a week, gave a 50% to the water bill last month, and will pay for May’s garbage bill. The volunteers moved quickly. The food at the public school was gone within a few hours.

“We are trying to do everything we can to help our residents,” De La Cruz said, adding there will be another free drive-through food distribution with Feeding South Florida from 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday at the Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School, 7901 NW 103 St.

Hundreds of drivers wait to receive food donations on Wednesday in Sunrise.
Hundreds of drivers wait to receive food donations on Wednesday in Sunrise. (Local 10 News)

Feeding South Florida held a drive-through distribution on Wednesday in Sunrise. Drivers started to line up outside the Sunrise Tennis Club Park at 4 a.m. The long line stretched from 95th Terrace to Oakland Park Boulevard. Volunteers started to distribute 500 loads at about 10 a.m.

Kevin Pickard’s job has changed dramatically during the pandemic. He has worked for the city for more than a decade. The former recreation supervisor moved up to become the city’s deputy leisure services director. Now he and his team are doing their best to help make sure people in Sunrise don’t go hungry.

City employees help to pack groceries into hundreds of drivers' cars on Wednesday in Sunrise.
City employees help to pack groceries into hundreds of drivers' cars on Wednesday in Sunrise. (Local 10 News)

“We are working with Feeding South Florida every single day to communicate our needs,” Pickard said. “We are just hoping to alleviate some of that fear. We opened a compassionate call center in our city, so Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., we have phone lines going, if residents need anything."

Some Broward County residents said their families didn’t own a car, so they hadn’t been able to get the help they need. Feeding South Florida is still working on ways to deliver meals to the homes of the people who are most in need.

Sunrise residents can call 954-746-3670 or email CompassionOfficer@sunrisefl.gov for more information. For more information about food distributions, visit this Local 10 News page.

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