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Food Banks Are Feeling The Pressure Amid The Coronavirus Crisis

The nonprofit Feeding South Florida is coping with a high demand for its services amid the coronavirus health crisis.
Courtesy of Feeding South Florida via the Miami Herald
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The coronavirus pandemic and the strain this crisis is having on the job market and the nation’s food supply chain is putting a lot of pressure on local food banks. 

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Before the virus outbreak, supermarkets and food companies would donate their surplus products to food pantries. Now, customers are buying larger quantities of food than before, leaving the store shelves close to empty. This translates to fewer donations for those who rely on food banks.

"We take our truck and we rescue form over 500 different retail stores every single week and we’ve seen a pretty significant decline in those donations that are coming in,” said Paco Velez, the president and CEO of Feeding South Florida

Also, because of the shutdowns related to the coronavirus, they have been able to supplement by rescuing food from places that do have left-over food during this time — like the cruise and hospitality industries. 

But Velez doesn't know how long they'll be able to keep that up for.  

Drive-thru food distribution by Feeding South Florida with Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami Dade on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
Credit Adorned Photography
The Florida Channel
Drive-thru food distribution by Feeding South Florida with Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami Dade on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

Feeding South Florida has also had to modify its food distribution strategies because of the virus outbreak. It's offering drive-thru pick up and home delivery services. By the end of April, it hopes to open a new kitchen in Boyton Beach to prepared meals for all of  South Florida.    

“That kitchen, which is a mass production kitchen, capable of preparing over 10,000 meals a day, will be up and running and then helping to provide those meals for seniors, for children or for working families”

The federal coronavirus stimulus bill includes $450 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to buy and distribute food to food banks.

"It's going to be a boost and a quick surge of food. But depending on the time frame of when we can get back to work and when we can get back to some sort of normality if this does drag on it's going to be difficult to keep the doors open and keep the food flowing," Velez said.

To keep up with demand, the organization is hiring more staff but because of social distancing they haven't been able to work with their usual volume of volunteers.

For information on how to donate or help, click here.

To find a food distribution location near you, click here.

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Leslie Ovalle produces the morning newscasts that air during Morning Edition. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling. Her interests include immigration, technology and the environment.