Pine Hills food drive feeds hundreds of families ahead of Thanksgiving

Orange County Public Schools distributes thousands of meals to children

PINE HILLS, Fla. – Across the country and throughout Central Florida, there has been a big need for food heading into Thanksgiving.

In the days leading up to the holiday, food drives assisting people in need have been packed with families simply trying to find ways to smile during a year that has been devastating for so many.

“I’m on a fixed income so every little bit helps,” said a woman who identified herself as Karen. “I appreciate the meals. It means a lot.”

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Latasha Larose’s family has also fallen on hard times.

“My husband lost his job, so it’s only me working, so things are kind of hard,” Larose said.

For people like Ray Soilis, he said getting a free turkey and a gift card for his family was right on time for Thanksgiving. He said work has slowed down for him big time all because of COVID-19.

“We are in a time of need, crisis, a lot of people not working. So we need organizations like this,” Soilis said.

Future Leaders United and United Foundation of Central Florida, in part hosted the food giveaway Tuesday in Pine Hills and fed 900 families. It’s something organizer Sandra Fatmi has done since July.

“It makes me feel great that we’re able to fulfill a need,” Fatmi said. “It’s a big deal today to serve the Pine Hills community.”

Larose, who has four kids, said she was in line for almost two hours Monday at her child’s school to get help over the holiday break, only to find out those meals ran out.

She said she was grateful for Tuesday’s meals in Pine Hills.

“It’s going to be a blessing,” Larose said.

Orange County Public Schools said they wanted to help families over the holiday break while schools were closed, but there were more people than expected. They released the following statement Monday:

“In an effort to support our families while schools are closed during the Thanksgiving break, for the first time ever because of the pandemic, Orange County Public Schools distributed free meals at 13 school sites on Monday, Nov. 23. These sites distributed over 20,000 meals to children under the age of 18 on a first-come-first-serve basis. Unfortunately, the demand was greater than the resources available and several sites ran out of meals sooner than expected. We will return to our regular curbside meal distribution on Monday, Nov. 30. In the meantime, families in need can call the United Way’s 211 number to receive assistance.”

Anyone who needs help securing a meal can use Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s online food finder resources: or

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