Authorities turn away thousands of Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program applicants

Disaster-relief distribution sites in S. Fla. deal with high demand for aid

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – There was high demand for government funds meant to be used for food this weekend in South Florida. By the time the temporary government distribution centers for the Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program cards were open Saturday morning, officers were already turning thousands away.

At C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, there was a long line of people sleeping in their cars Friday and Saturday night. They wanted to be the first to get in and apply for a program designed to help them recover from Hurricane Irma, which prompted evacuations and power outages in September.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture entrusted the Florida's Department of Children and Families with distributing the Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program cards, which can be redeemed for food at local supermarkets.

Government employees were moving as fast as they could at C.B. Smith Park trying to process applicants, as a long line of hopeful recipients waited outside. DCF Communications Director Beatriz Lopez said Saturday that they had served 1.1 million people in Florida and were going to help more, but not before coming up with a safer distribution plan.

Lopez said police officers were citing health and safety concerns. The centers at Amelia Earhart Park at 451 E 56 St., in Hialeah; tents at Tropical Park at 7900 SW 40 St.; Miami-Dade College's North Campus at 11380 NW 27 Ave.; and South Dade Government Center at 10710 SW 211 St., were closed Saturday, according to Lopez.

Amelia Earhart Park's location was going to remain closed, and the three other sites in Miami-Dade will be open Sunday, Lopez said.

"Individuals will be served as long as it is safe to do so," Lopez said. "The lines at the sites may close down again early in the day in order to ensure safety operations."

Locations in Broward County were also closed Saturday and Sunday, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright. She added BSO was working with program organizers and other law enforcement agencies to ensure the public's safety during the process.

Lopez said the three Food for Florida locations in Broward County will be closed Sunday per a request from the Broward Sheriff's Office following the response to the sites this week.

DCF will serve Broward County residents again later this month to ensure that every family in need has the opportunity to safely receive needed aid, Lopez said. Sites in neighboring counties are available to assist families for urgent needs.

Lopez said families can visit sites in Palm Beach County this week because Miami-Dade County has seen an unprecedented response.

Additional counties in the region also have sites that will be open and more information is available on the Food for Florida website, Lopez said. Information on date, time and locations will continue to be posted on the website and announced as soon as possible.

Seven temporary government sites opened in South Florida Wednesday and were meant to have employees meeting with applicants through Sunday. Officials were encouraging applicants to pre-register at MyFLFamilies.com, but on Saturday even some applicants who pre-registered were having to walk away.

The locations in Broward were Central Broward Regional Park at 3801 W. Sunrise Blvd., in Lauderhill; and the Quiet Waters Park at 401 S. Powerline Rd., in Deerfield Beach. Lopez said additional days will be announced for Miami-Dade.

For more information about the program, call 1-866-762-2237.

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