It was just a few bags of groceries, the kind of staples you find in many closets and refrigerators.
Stuff like pasta and gravy. canned fruit. Flour. Sugar. Crisps. applesauce. Six cans of baked beans; a package of francs. Canadian friends driving home after a trip to the Space Coast had let me know they had too many supplies and asked if I could put the food to good use.
I knew I could.
So the other day around 11pm I posted the offers to Mutual Aid Brevard, a local Facebook group that helps people find food and other aid on the Space Coast.
At 7am I had half a dozen requests.
Messages from those I delivered to and those who asked to be next in line stayed with me long after I’d dropped off the food.
The woman who doesn’t qualify for a disability but needed food for a friend who takes her to her monthly doctor’s appointments.
The woman who is raising her granddaughter and receives $11 a month in food stamps that, along with food supplies, have been vital to family stability – and while hunger has long and shamefully plagued the world’s wealthiest nation, it is in the pandemic era has only gotten worse.
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Democratic Party activist Stacey Patel founded Mutual Aid Brevard just as the coronavirus was beginning to invade countless lives and livelihoods. The group now has almost 15,000 members – 1,100 new members over the past year.
Oftentimes, meal deals like the ones I’ve offered are taken up within seconds. Members have also become more familiar with the community resources and are therefore able to make recommendations, Patel said.
“But all too often, lack of transportation, disabilities, lack of identification, limited availability, and other barriers make access to such resources difficult or impossible,” she said.
“It is quite clear that Space Coast wages are not keeping pace with the rising cost of supporting a family in Brevard, and our already inadequate social services infrastructure is bleeding in the face of dire hardship.”
The year-over-year numbers paint the picture at the Central Brevard Sharing Center in Cocoa.
As of February 2021, the sharing center had 856 emergency feeding program customers, received £24,835 of food donations and distributed £29,960 of food. In February 2022: 1,240 customers; £20,151 in donations and £43,400 in food distributed.
That old and condescending statement about how “you should have planned better”?
Nobody planned COVID. job losses. Exhausted savings, if there were any at all. Child tax credits, monthly payments of $250 to $300 that went to about 35 million families across the United States as of July 2021, ended in December after Congress failed to renew the program. Research from the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy showed that groceries were the most common items purchased with monthly payments by both low- and middle-income families.
“I saw the writing on the wall,” said David Brubaker, the Sharing Center’s president and CEO.
“I knew one thing that keeps families away is this tax credit and with that they don’t access our programs as often. And once inflation became very apparent… I would estimate families will have to spend an extra $3,000 to $5,000 this year compared to last year just to stay the same. So we’re seeing a very steady line of kids here… and we’re still trying to figure out how to get more volunteers. We had to hire someone to help in the pantry.
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People just don’t have the disposable income they had, Brubaker said. Donations have declined. Community support grants for nonprofits, including county sharing centers, have been phased out in recent years.
Time, treasures and talent, Brubaker said, “We can all give some of it,” something as simple as volunteering at a food bank, hosting a food drive in our neighborhood, or, if possible, donating the “second” in a purchase that you receive You a deal—deals Brubaker calls “buy one, bless one.”
As I was driving between 520 State Road and Viera Boulevard to deliver those two bags of groceries, I saw two people pushing grocery carts filled with what appeared to be suitcases, small pieces of furniture, and a lamp.
I have seen beggars. A man who appeared to be sleeping next to US 1. On a mattress.
I was thinking about all of this while talking to David and Stacey.
It is vitally important what wonderful individuals and groups achieve through networks, food banks, churches and non-profit organizations.
But it’s not enough.
Whatever got her to this point, when people get up at midnight to browse a Facebook page for food, or queue at county sharing centers before they open, there’s a problem that’s not easily solved can be – or as individuals.
We must start at both ends, Patel said — reaching out personally to offer our neighbors direct assistance whenever we can, whether it’s kindness, food, shelter, daycare, or a payment for utilities. And we must come together to demand action on issues like affordable housing and food insecurity, where sound policies and effective budgeting of our taxpayers’ dollars can make a real difference.
“A real movement is needed if we are to want the Space Coast to be a place where young people, families and the elderly can survive… a community that once dreamed big enough to put men on the moon can.” make it better,” she said.
“I hope we will.”
Contact Kennerly at 321-242-3692 or email@example.com. Twitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly. Local journalism like this needs your support. Consider subscribing to your local newspaper. Check out our current offers.