ORLANDO, Fla. – With food banks across Central Florida overwhelmed due to the coronavirus pandemic, one Orlando non-profit wants people in need of food to know there are other resources available.
“It’s not a food pantry, it’s not an emergency food program, it’s something to help people on an ongoing basis,” Eric Gray, Executive Director of United Against Poverty in Orlando said. “Here everything is 60 to 70 percent off.”
United Against Poverty offers social services, including a grocery store in Orlando where members can buy almost everything found at a local supermarket but at a discounted price. The grocery store serves about 600 people a day and with the pandemic outbreak, Gray says that number will go up.
“This last weekend was our busiest weekend in three years. So many people are being laid off, so many people searching for help and filing for unemployment,” Gray said. “If you’re a family or household who’s been recently laid off, you’re going to qualify for this program right now and we want to make sure people know that.”
For grocery store director Kiera Bingham, it was important to continue doing her part to help out the community.
“The rest of my family is actually working from home and I feel like I have it so much better because I’m able to come out and be a part of something bigger,” Bingham said. Despite the threat of COVID-19, Bingham comes to work every day as she battles her own medical issues.
"She really has made the decision to fight through and to be here to run the program," Gray said.
A selfless act Bingham says is giving her a purpose.
"What we do is important to me, you know, so helping the community, making sure that our members have the food and supplies that they need," she said.
The non-profit, which has offices in Vero Beach and Fort Pierce as well, serves about 30,000 members, all whom are low-income families.
Gray says they also want people willing to help them know they are in need of volunteers. The usual church groups and youth groups that volunteer with the organization are currently staying home.
“All of our groups have canceled and we understand because they’re just not as comfortable being outside in this setting,” Gray said. “We still are in need of volunteers so we’ve expanded our orientation to one to three days a week.”
And to make sure everyone is staying safe, workers are being provided with face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
To find out how to become a volunteer, or to make a donation visit United Against Poverty’s website.