LAKE WORTH BEACH, Fla. — As South Florida shut down to curb the spread of the coronavirus, scores of people lost their income, making it more difficult to feed their families.
Food insecurity is an ongoing crisis made much worse by the pandemic, but many people in the community have stepped up to help.
Inside the Indian Pines Community in Lake Worth Beach over the past few months, there has been a steady line of cars backing up and popping their trunk for a food distribution event. Volunteers then load in boxes and bags of fresh produce and canned goods.
"Our demographics are all people and all ages now, very, very food insecure," Deborah Morgan, president and CEO of Palm Beach Harvest, told WPTV.
Over the past year, the nonprofit has hosted drive-thru food distributions in nearly every corner of Palm Beach County. The coronavirus crisis has caused food insecurity to surge.
"With the closing of many restaurants and people losing their jobs, people that were living paycheck to paycheck are now not even getting a paycheck," Morgan said.
According to the United Way of Palm Beach County, more than 300,000 people in Palm Beach County are now food insecure. The United Way said that number was hovering around 180,000 before COVID-19.
"No one should go hungry," Debra Marcelle-Coney, with Community Faith Outreach Ministries, said. "No one should go hungry."
The pandemic has caused stress, but it has also led to new partnerships. The Community Faith Outreach Ministries has now teamed up with Palm Beach Harvest to help feed those in need.
"We can't do it alone, but if we pull our resources together, certainly we can do something to better our community," Marcelle-Coney said.
The National Council of Jewish Women has also joined the fight by launching Soup for the Soul. Volunteers went shopping for groceries to help fill hundreds of bags to make soup for families.
"This will go every month, two communities will be doing this drive," Laurie Alexander said.
Over the last year, there has been lines of cars in need of a helping hand across the area.
Palm Beach Harvest said that, before COVID-19, it distributed about 5.5 million pounds of food a year, but last year between April 1 and Dec. 31, it distributed nearly 8 million pounds.
"Now it's getting worse rather than better because now these people have been out of work, people are not able to go back to work and the food insecurity is at its peak now," Morgan said.
The need to feed is ramping up and showing no signs of slowing down.