Local charities make sure expiring FEMA food boxes don't go to waste

Boxes are surplus from hurricane season

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - This past hurricane season kept FEMA busy.

Hurricanes Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria required the government agency to order enough food boxes to feed storm victims.

However, while preparing for the worst, FEMA ordered more than enough and some of those boxes are set to expire soon. And that's why two local non profits -- Living Hungry and Palm Beach County Cares -- are teaming up to send these out to the hungry in our community and ensure the food does not go to waste.

"This food was here during Irma, during the hurricane time,"Maura Plante, founder of Living Hungry. "There was this big surplus of it because of so many hurricanes this season."

FEMA donated thousands of boxes to Farmshare, a Florida-wide food bank. Farmshare then partnered with Living Hungry and Palm Beach Cares to bring the boxes to Palm Beach County and distribute them to hungry families. The Palm Beach Post offered up warehouse space to house the pallets of boxes.

"Just in the last couple of weeks, we've received 17 truck loads of food," said Plante. "We have 26 trucks coming this week and after that, we have another 100 truckloads coming."

With so many boxes coming in, Living Hungry connected with the Palm Beach County Office of Community Revitalization to put out call to hundreds of organizations across the area to help distribute the food.

"When you have type of a bonanza, with a huge donation like this by the truckloads, it really takes the whole community to come together," said Plante.

People like Omar Portocarrero, founder of Feeding the Hungry, are coming in by the droves to pick up the FEMA boxes.

"I think it's a blessing from God!" he said. 

Portocarrero brings food directly into neighborhoods and mobile home communities so that families have direct access to food.

"I usually go to food deserts where people don't have access to food and one of biggest problems they have is transportation," he said.

Even the local Girl Scouts are scoping out some boxes to be distributed by local troops.

"We do an annual food drive every year," said Mica Minor with the Girl scouts of Southeast Florida. "It's wonderful that we're able to participate and do something worthwhile in our community. And it's great that the girls can even write little notes on the boxes before they send them out to those in need."

The entire initiative is funded by the Everglades Trust.

“We spend all our time battling to save the Everglades and the drinking water supply for eight million Floridians," said Kimberly Mitchell, executive director for the Everglades Trust. "While it’s mighty important work that we are committed to, stopping to ensure Maura gets all this food to hungry children, especially those in the Glades communities, is a no-brainer.”

More truckloads on the way, so that more mouths can be fed in the coming months.

"We're going to do this straight through the summer," said Plante. "Straight through July, until all of this is out into the community, because we don't want to see anybody going hungry."

These boxes are only being given out by the pallet. Any church or nonprofit organization or agency is welcome to come pick up the boxes. 

If you would like to sign up to pick up a pallet, just fill out the form at this link.
 

People or families in need of food can visit the Restoration Bridge food pantry & breakfast every Saturday, 9 AM to 1 PM behind the Good Shepherd Church at 2341 S Military Trl, West Palm Beach, FL  33415.

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