Central Florida food banks see high demand for help at start of Hunger Action Month

Organizations said COVID surges drive need

ORLANDO, Fla. – Despite impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are improvements in the workforce, but, as September marks Hunger Action Month, Central Florida food banks know the need for food assistance is high for families across the community.

“While I’d like to say things have changed this looks very much like it did a year ago,” Dan Samuels, director of Philanthropy for Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida said. “We started to see a stabilization a few months ago about a hundred families every day searching for food assistance but once again we’ve seen an uptick close to 200 families a day.”

The organization was present during a mobile food distribution in Orlando Thursday at the Islamic Society of Central Florida, where a line of cars with families picked up food — some arriving before the event began to load up on fresh produce, chicken, cheese, pastries and water.

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Second Harvest said when there’s an uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases, it noticed a surge in the number of people in need of food assistance.

“If a person gets sick they can’t work,” Samuels said. “I can’t say it’s a cause and effect, but I can certainly say that we have seen often that when there is a surge in the community there’s a surge for need.”

And no work means a tighter budget and a greater struggle to put food on the table.

Samuels said bouncing back from a financial crisis doesn’t happen overnight.

“We learned from the Great Recession that there’s a long tail to the recovery efforts,” he said. “Once you’ve racked up a whole bunch of debt or credit cards bills or you’ve blown through your savings, it takes time to stabilize your family.”

Godfrey Brun is a volunteer for the Islamic Society of Central Florida.

“I’m seeing a lot of families that need help, that are in need, especially due to COVID,” Brun said. “People in this community are of Haitian or Hispanic descent.”

According to Brun many families that are showing up at food distributions in the area also have loved ones who’ve been affected by natural disasters in their homeland, like the recent earthquake in Haiti for which they are providing from abroad.

“A lot of them are already kind of in a bad situation and then they need a little bit more assistance because they have those extra mouths to feed,’ Brun said.

To learn where you can find a location to get food assistance, visit Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Food Finder page here.

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.