Rural Food Banks Across Florida Struggling To Meet Increased Demand
In Highlands County, poverty was an issue long-before the coronavirus says Mary Foy, board member of the Heartland Food Bank:
"So I was acutely aware of the food insecurity issues that we have, and now that, of course, has been further compounded by the COVID situation that we are in."
While the state has entered phase two of reopening, some restaurants and bars are closing due to rising coronavirus cases. According to the Florida Unemployment Benefits Watch, more than one million Floridians are still waiting for relief.
"There's [a] greater need for food because there are a lot of people out of work, and we have to try to supply that food to help them," says President of the Children's Table Bill Brown.
The Children's Table is a Food Bank that distributes food to rural areas across North Central Florida. Brown explains demand has increased by 50% to 60% since the pandemic. He's also short on volunteers.
"The ones that are here have to work harder and longer and do more," Brown says.
Help is coming through a grant from the Walmart Foundation. Six rural food banks across Florida will receive $100,000. That includes the Heartland Food Bank and The Children's Table. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried says that money will go toward improving rural food bank's infrastructure:
"Like capacity for storing and serving food. Coaching from IFAS specialists on nutritional education."
The grant will also allow the non-profit farmer network to give premade produce boxes to banks to give them out to families.