Curleys House gets community grant to assist in its feeding mission

caines | 5/9/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Liberty City non-profit seeks more resources as demand for food grows Curleys House of Style, Inc./Hope Relief Food Bank, a Liberty City-based community outreach center, was recently awarded with a grant as part of the Restaurant Community Grants program from the Darden Foundation, the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants Inc. And while the $1,000 grant will help them fund their elderly meals program, Executive Director Laverne Elie says shes concerned as her agency faces a significant increase in the demand for food from an ever-expanding area within Miami-Dade County. We are very grateful to have the financial support and are seeing more grants from restaurants and family brands that are helping local community programs like ours, Elie said. But with cuts from all levels of government, we are in an awkward position of having to buy more food because we are feeding more people. Our food bank is one of the few in the County whose doors are open seven days a week. Even when we have almost nothing in our coffers, we try to help. And the requests for help arent just from people in or near Liberty City many individuals are coming from Hialeah. We even had a man from Boca Raton. But in order to meet the growing demand, we really need more in-kind donations so that we dont have to use our limited funds to purchase food. Preparing for a challenging summer According to the USDA, seven states exhibited household food insecurity rates that were significantly higher than the U.S. national average [14.7 percent] between 2009 and 2011. Mississippi and Arkansas were number one at 19.2 percent; Florida ranked sixth at 16.2 percent. Elie says that these numbers tend to rise even more during the summer months when students are out of school and shes concerned about how some youth in Miami-Dade County will eat. We may be facing a real crisis, she said. Many of our kids are fed by their grandparents others rely heavily on breakfast and lunch programs at their schools. They really struggle during the summer break. Miami-Dade County has a hunger problem. Some of its due to the lack of jobs and the cuts in social resources. We have a major distribution of food monthly when Farm Share comes out. Sometimes the number of clients tops 500 for that distribution [May 14th is the next scheduled time]. The people just keep coming and we are doing our best to keep up with the demand. Senior citizens, she says, often have to decide between paying for medication and buying groceries. Thats why Curleys House is seeing more elderly people. They take food to several of the area senior citizen complexes including Meek Manor, New Horizons and Coral Place and provide services for several hundred each month. We go to the seniors because many of them cant get to us, she said. Were now seeing 200 people almost everyday and tracking about 10,000 clients a month. There are, of course, small food banks and feeding ministries supported by local churches. But we handle the majority of food requests and sometimes, its overwhelming. However, we are committed to helping our children, seniors and families that are battling food shortages and hunger. But we need help they need help. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com