Staff at the regional food bank, Feeding South Florida, are working extra hours and housing extra volunteers ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
This week is one of the busiest in the food bank’s entire year.
Normally, the food bank sees 600 to 700 volunteers each week. There are about 1,100 people signed up for shifts at the Feeding South Florida warehouse in Pembroke Park this week.
Sari Vatske, the food bank’s executive vice president, said people have packed and prepared around 4,500 Thanksgiving meals so far.
“People tend to think that November is the only time that people are hungry,” Vatske said. “The reality is, is that on a daily basis [in South Florida] there are 706,000 people that struggle with food insecurity.”
Feeding South Florida has about 300 nonprofit partners from Monroe to Palm Beach Counties that help identify families in need. At the beginning of this year, the food bank helped coordinate extra distribution events during the extended government shutdown. Recently, they’ve been helping families who have come to South Florida from the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian.
“I think one of the things that we’re now constantly building into our budgets, that we’re building into our training of new team members, is being prepared for disasters, whether natural or man-made,” Vatske said.
Some corporations send employees to volunteer at Feeding South Florida around the holiday season.
Ashley Hayes was one of about 12 Global Wealth Management employees who came to package Thanksgiving meals at the warehouse on Monday afternoon.
She said she wanted to come before Thanksgiving so that she could have a hand in making sure someone had a holiday meal.
“I just envision someone not having something to eat for Thanksgiving,” she said. “So, I just hope that this giving back gives them that.”
Moving into the Christmas and Hanukkah season, the food bank is still looking for people to ‘adopt-a-family’ and provide meals for the December holidays.
The food bank may be at full volunteer capacity through mid-January, Vatske said, but they still need people to sign up to volunteer for after the holidays are over.
“We see kind of a drop off in January when everyone’s, you know, done with their holiday plans,” she said. “We always need more volunteers in January, February, March.”
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