Large crowds shut down post-Irma food-aid program in Cocoa

Cocoa Expo hosts Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter

COCOA, Fla. - Thousands of people lined up Wednesday at the Cocoa Expo Sports Center were turned away as they sought help from the Food for Florida post-Hurricane Irma relief program.

The Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program location was shut down at 4 p.m., two hours early, because of "safety concerns," Department of Children and Families communications director Kristi Gray said.

"It’s the last decision we ever want to make," she told News 6. "It’s a tough one to make."

She said with so many people still arriving, time was not their friend.

"We reached a point today where (deputies) felt like the safety of our folks was going to be in jeopardy. We had enough people in line that will keep us late here in the evening, and they were concerned about them getting back to their car safely," she said. "It’s super dark out here."

Wednesday was the last day of the program. Those who were turned away are being referred to surrounding locations in Marion, Polk, Orange and Seminole counties.

A list of those locations and an online application can be found here.

Just before noon Wednesday, cars were parked along the eastbound side of State Road 520 west of I-95, with drivers walking alongside the highway toward the Cocoa Expo Center. There, the perimeter of the baseball field was lined with people waiting to get in the line to head inside, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Since Saturday, thousands of Brevard residents — and some from nearby counties, too — have queued up before doors opened at 7 a.m. for sign-ups through the program.

To qualify for the program, called the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as D-SNAP, individuals not already receiving food benefits must have lived or worked in one of Florida’s 48 counties approved for post-storm disaster relief. 

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