As millions across the country lose their jobs, the need for food is off the charts. And the increase in food insecurity is in our region. Southwest Florida neighbors form huge lines outside local food banks in hopes of receiving enough meal items to feed their families.
We visited St. Matthew’s House in East Naples Monday, which is among local nonprofits with a mission to serve Southwest Florida families in need. Representatives say the need is great and has increased at an alarming rate due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Volunteers at St. Matthew’s House are packaging food from the nonprofit’s pantry for community members to receive, but it’s a fraction of what is needed to provide them with what they need.
People we spoke to shared their current circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I got laid off from my job,” Nick Mullins said.
“I worked two jobs, and I was laid off from both,” Stephanie Peck said.
Both Mullins and Peck are experiencing similar situations.
“I have a 16-year-old and a 6-year-old,” Peck said.
“I expected to be the one donating,” Mullins said. “I never thought I’d be receiving anything.”
Like people sitting in seemingly endless car lines, they need to feed themselves and their families.
We also spoke to those at Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida. They explained the difference between food insecurity prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current need.
“About 151,000 people in the Southwest Florida area don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” Mary Wozniak, with the food bank, said of the average need.
Van Ellison of St. Matthew’s House says the need has significantly increased.
“When you look at the numbers, that’s gonna be a 2,000 percent increase,” Ellison said.
“As a parent, I have to be on guard to make sure I’m providing as much as I can,” Peck said.
People of all different incomes are experiencing food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This does not discriminate among demographic,” Wozniak said.
“Single mom or a single dad,” Ellison said. “We saw a lot of elderly.”
The need continues, and it scratches the surface of how people’s lives are being affected.
“There are bills that have to be paid,” Mullins said. “And, if they’re not, you either don’t have electricity or a place or live.”
And these local food pantries know the effort is not finished and will continue to see community members in search of support.
“Last Thursday we gave away 20 tons,” Ellison said.
“Oh, we’re gonna continue to see more cars getting out,” Wozniak said.
St, Matthew’s House and Harry Chapin Food Bank are asking for monetary donations, you can visit their websites to submit donations online.
“It left such an impression on my heart that people can give like this,” Peck said.
“I thank God every day for people like them,” Mullins said.