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Local food banks see increased need with federal assistance program set to end

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City of Opa-locka employees and volunteers place groceries provided by the food bank Feeding South Florida into the vehicles of patrons at a drive-thru distribution site on April 14, 2020 in Opa-locka, Florida.

City of Opa-locka employees and volunteers place groceries provided by the food bank Feeding South Florida into the vehicles of patrons at a drive-thru distribution site on April 14, 2020 in Opa-locka, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Update (Oct. 23, 2020): The USDA announced on Friday that it is extending the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which delivers food to food banks like Feeding South Florida under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, through December. It was originally set to end on Oct. 31.

The most recent data from the Census Bureau’s weekly household survey found that, for the week ending Oct. 12, more than 22 million people reported that they had sometimes or often not had enough to eat in the last seven days. And food banks are seeing more and more people who need help.

Paco Vélez oversees a food bank that serves four counties as the CEO of Feeding South Florida. He said when the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, “all of a sudden, overnight, we saw a 30% jump in our distributions.”

Across the country, demand at food banks is up 60% over this time last year, and has been for months, said Kate Leone of Feeding America.

“At the same time, we’re looking at less food coming in through federal programs through the food bank system,” Leone said.

One of those, under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, initially provided 160 truckloads a week of food to Feeding South Florida, Vélez said. Now, that’s down to 60 truck loads, and the program is set to end this month. And, he’s concerned, because already “we don’t have enough food to get it to those families,” Vélez said

And, he said Feeding South Florida is having to go out and ask for more donations to purchase food.

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