Need for food assistance increased over summer for Central Florida families

ORLANDO, Fla. — For kids, summer days are typically filled with fun in the sun and days not spent in class.


For parents, that means they have to fill the gap of meals their child won’t be receiving at school.

“They turn to food pantries to stretch their food budget and make ends meet,” Erika Spence, with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, said.

Since school has been out for summer, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida has seen the number of searches for food assistance rise.

Read: Local food bank has new funds to expand its operations

“Now that the children are home, they are growing, they tend to grow over summer a lot faster so they are constantly hungry,” Diana Serrano, the Director of Muslim Social Services, said.

Through the food bank’s “Food Finder Tool” June showed there were more than 19,000 searches of families reaching out for help. That’s a 95% jump compared to last June.

And in May there were more than 16,000 searches. That’s a 101% increase from the year before.

“Families in Central Florida are facing all kinds of challenges,” Spence said. “It can be long term economic challenges like the increase in rent.”

Read: Senior hunger impacting hundreds of Central Florida residents

After paying for those rising costs, Serrano said local families tell her it’s easiest to cut two or three trips to the grocery store out of their budget during the summer.

“Our numbers have definitely increased daily,” Serrano said. “We are now seeing about 130 families daily. It’s a struggle. Having the children home, makes it a little harder to feed them.”

Muslim Social Services is one of Second Harvest’s 750 community feeding partners. The location is open 5 days a week to help take a burden off of parents this summer and beyond.

“Snacks is really what they look for,” Serrano said. “We do our best to provide whatever we can to make it easy for the families during summer.”

Read: Florida opts out of program to feed hungry kids

There is no appointment needed to receive food at Muslim Social Services. They just ask you to be an Orange County resident but said they will not turn anyone away.

As a reminder, through the state’s Summer Breakspot Program, anyone 18 and younger can receive a hot meal at a local participating school throughout the summer.

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