Thousands swarm Caleb Center seeking food

Congresswoman Wilson’s town hall addresses cuts in SNAP and concerns over hunger

D. Kevin McNeir | 10/24/2013, 9 a.m.
Liberty City residents filled a Joseph Caleb Center meeting room totaling well over 1,000 men, women and children last Saturday ...

Liberty City residents filled a Joseph Caleb Center meeting room totaling well over 1,000 men, women and children last Saturday in order to address their concerns about how imminent Nov. 1st cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] will impact their lives. It is estimated that 1-in-4 families across the U.S. currently rely on on SNAP benefits — formerly known as the food stamp program. The town hall meeting was convened by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson who was joined by representatives from Access Florida, South Florida Work Force, Feeding South Florida, Miami-Dade County, the USDA and Farm Share. Local politicians were also on hand to listen to the testimonies of their constituencies. During the meeting, the conversation squarely focused on how residents will survive given the pending cuts. Many wanted to know how they are expected to survive with less food. And it wasn’t just Blacks who voiced their concerns as a large percentage of Spanish-speaking residents also expressed their fear. But most of the comments came from senior citizens — barely able to walk to the microphone but determined to speak their minds.

Wilson supplied information as to what kinds of resources are available. She initiated a new program called “The Harvest” that kicked off on Saturday that she says will centralize the process of gathering and distributing food to those in Liberty City and other parts of South Florida.

“We don’t want anyone to suffer and we’re very concerned about our seniors, veterans and children,” she said. “These cuts will literally take food out of their mouths as well as the unemployed and underemployed. My office has even gotten calls from people who say they are being forced to mix dog food with rice as their only meal for the week. We don’t have time to review statistics — we must find a way now to give hope to our people for the future.”

Churches asked to partner with new feeding initiative

Wilson went on to say that she did not want citizens to be blindsided once the SNAP cuts take effect.

“We are not going to sit back and whine about things —we’re going to work together to find a way to provide help,” she said.

Local churches and smaller food banks are being asked to contact either Wilson’s office (305-690-5905) or Curley’s House (786-262-2851) who will pick up donated food and take it to Curley’s House in Liberty City. Farm Share will be taking a major role in making sure that more food goes to Curley’s House [6025 NW 6th Court] — a non-profit feeding center that has already experienced significant increases in demand.

After the two-hour long meeting, a long line of people stood in the heat waiting for bags of food.

LaVerne Holliday, assistant director for Curley’s House, said she was not surprised by the numbers.

“People have been lining up since early this morning and some were afraid to go inside for the meeting because they didn’t want to be left out,” Holliday said. “Model City’s poverty rate is estimated at 50 percent and Miami-Dade County is the fifth poorest in the nation. The House plans to cut $60B from SNAP benefits while the Senate is saying $6B in cuts are what they’re pushing. Either way we lose.”