FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – From the Mr. Greens fruit and produce distribution in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood to Calvary Chapel’s in Fort Lauderdale, the need for food distribution is increasing, organizers said Saturday.
At the Calvary Chapel site, attendees at the drive-through distribution weren’t only given produce, but also had their trunks filled with items like toilet paper, batteries and laundry detergent.
"The last distribution wasn’t as busy, but today we are seeing that need. (There's a) sense of crisis like 'I lost my job and now I'm a month or two in and I'm getting more desperate. We see the lines getting longer," said Doug Sauder, pastor at Calvary Chapel, Fort Lauderdale.
Last year, a Map the Meal gap report found that more than 10 percent of South Florida’s population is food insecure. That’s more than 700,000 people not knowing where they will get their next meal. Then came COVID-19 and its related business closures, generating a tidal wave of layoffs that forced more families into food insecurity.
Pembroke Park Mayor Ashira Mohammed said her city was already hosting distribution events two to three times a year in this community.
"Because of COVID-19, we are doing it every week and we're going to continue doing it as long as there is a need," Mohammed said.
That need is anticipated to continue even after the economy is re-opened as people try to find work and get back on their feet.
"People are looking for hope," Feeding South Florida's CEO Paco Velez said. "I told all my employees to smile through their masks and smile with their eyes."
Everyone agrees that the work these volunteers are doing is so critical.
“We want to make sure that everyone is safe and that they have food to survive right now,” Mohammed said.