ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida continues to struggle with the effects of COVID-19. Families across the community are still in need of assistance, especially food.
For an Orlando resident who fell ill to coronavirus after she lost her job, the struggle made her feel hopeless.
“Things became difficult, money was tough and I was trying to keep up on my bills,” Arlene Wright-Jammeh said. “I reached a point where I hit rock bottom I was like ‘you know what? I’m kinda hungry,’ and I was sick so I didn’t want to leave the house.”
In mid-March, she started to feel uneasy. At first, she thought it was a cold but a few weeks later, a COVID-19 test confirmed she was positive.
“Then my chest started to get really heavy and then I got pink eye which I’ve never had in my life, just things weren’t working out, I knew something wasn’t right with my body,” Wright-Jammeh said. “I never had a fever. That’s the odd thing. I never had a fever.”
Wright-Jammeh said she recovered the second week of May and shared with News 6 her experience of being alone and with no one to bring her food. Eventually, she said a state representative referred her to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
“It took me a couple of days to call them because there’s sort of a stigma attached to it for some people (who are) embarrassed to reach out for help,” she said.
The non-profit organization, which serves six Central Florida counties, launched the Bring Hope Home program in April.
"Sort of like an Uber eats platform where they come and we sort of act as the restaurant,” Rachel Stankiewitch, the Health & Hunger programs manager for Second Harvest, said.
According to the organization, they saw the need after receiving hundreds of phone calls from concerned residents in the first weeks of the pandemic.
“People who are in that risk population, maybe had some underlying health issues, individuals with disabilities, seniors,” Stankiewitch said. “They were saying ‘well I can’t get out, I can’t leave my home I need someone to bring food to me.'”
Second Harvest Food Bank works with several agencies to make those home food deliveries. They recently partnered with Amazon Flex drivers.
“Drivers have the capability to go to the six counties service area that we serve, but the amount of calls that we get are primarily from Orange County, Osceola, and Seminole,” Stankiewitch said.
Wright-Jammeh recalled she sought help twice from the food bank but now gets help with government assistance. She said the first time she saw the box of fruit and non-perishable food was life-saving.
“Within a couple of hours my doorbell rang and they had left a beautiful box of food on my front porch and it helped me to a degree I don’t even know that they know how much it helped me.”
Anyone who is unable to leave home to physically visit a food pantry and would like to set up delivery services can call 407-514-1096.