This is the time of year, with Thanksgiving around the corner, when society considers the plight of the neediest among us, as if food insecurity only exists during the holidays.
Those who work in hunger relief know better. For example,Feeding South Florida, the biggest food bank operation in the area, is currently serving 1.2 million people.
“The holidays is a huge time for our families, but the need is year-round, especially during the summer months, when kids are home from school,” said Paco Velez, CEO of Feeding South Florida.
Speaking of school, The Harvest Drive started 30 years ago in one Broward County Public School. Now, volunteers are involved in 200 schools, providing essentials for 2,400 families.
“But the vision that I had when I began this was to teach kids empathy,” said Harvest Drive founder Renee Herman.
Thursday at Western High School, students led the effort to fill hundreds of bags with supplies and food. The goal is a week’s worth of groceries for every family.
“We have some families that are living in the parks, we have families that are living in cars,” Herman said. “It’s been a difficult year.
Herman says the need is being driven in part by the high cost of food.
“The food is just so expensive, we see on our end, we seethe shortage in the food supply chain and we are just trying to make ends meet, we just want our bags packed.”
Paco Velez says many families have to make difficult choices.
“With the cost of fuel, the cost of rent and the cost of food going higher and higher, their dollars and their benefits weren’t going as far as they used to,” Velez said. “We’re trying to make it less difficult for them by providing that food to make sure they have something to eat for themselves and their children.”
In Miami Thursday, the national organization Feed theChildren partnered with Amazon and Amigos for Kids. They passed out food and supplies to 400 families.
“Being able to come to Miami when grocery prices are sky high right now, food insecurity, food deserts, and trying to get all across theUS doing these things with different partners, that we partner along with is really what Feed the Children is about, trying to work ourselves out of a job,”said Aaron Hazel of Feed the Children.
Nationwide, food costs have risen about 11% in the past year, and an estimated one in six children are living with food insecurity.
It’s not too late to help by donating money. That allows the agencies to buy the supplies they know people need.