By Lisa J. Huriash
South Florida thrives as a care-free Mecca for tourists. But it’s also home to hundreds of thousands of hungry natives, including children, according to figures from the region’s largest food bank, Feeding South Florida.
In Broward County, 15 percent of the population, or 266,000 people, is food insecure. In Palm Beach County, more than 202,000 people are food insecure, defined as not knowing where their next meal will come from.
Nationally, one in five children are hungry, the same number in Broward, but it’s a slightly better picture in Palm Beach County. In Broward, 20 percent of children are food insecure, meaning, 81,650 children go to bed hungry. In Palm Beach County, the number is 23 percent, or 63,660 children.
The numbers haven’t wavered much since last year, according to Feeding South Florida.
But that’s little consolation to families who depend of federal assistance or donations from soup kitchens and food pantries to fill their kitchen shelves, Feeding South Florida said this week in releasing the figures.
The study showed that $3.13 is the average cost of the ingrgedients for a home-cooked meal in South Florida. Still, the food budget shortfall per person per week is $18.27, meaning that’s how much extra money each person would need to be self-sufficient
The numbers mean that non-profits “need to do a better job of working together,” said Feeding South Florida spokeswoman Sari Vatske. “It’s not just about food, but about breaking the cycle of poverty.
“Hunger itself is not the actual problem,” she said. “The problem is poverty, providing food to people is solvable. Poverty is complex. It’s breaking the dependence on emergency food. We can keep throwing food at the problem or we can break it off at the root cause.”
Fran Glover, director of New Wine Ministries in Cooper City, said her food bank serves 2,000 people a month, up from 450 people a month less than a year ago.
She sees the need first-hand, passing out pasta, grains and other meals two days a week that come directly from several area supermarkets, or distributed through Feeding South Florida.
Chiefly among her clientele: single moms, lower-wage workers who pay rent and utilities before food, and cancer patients who need to pay medical bills. Because of the steady stream of calls begging for help, she is considering adding a third week to her distribution.
The answer, she said, is training the poor to get better jobs.
“If people are not well trained and educated they are going to fall through the cracks, they are always going to have to apply for aid,” Glover said. “It’s a vicious cycle.
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