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SWFL nonprofits continue to support families with food insecurity, numbers rising

Saint Matthew’s House is feeding a site, record number of families experiencing food insecurity in Southwest Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.

We visited the nonprofit’s food distribution center in East Naples Thursday, where we spoke to mothers who are doing what they can to feed their families.

More than one mom told us they skip meals so their children don’t have to. That matches up with a new report that shows 41% of mothers and kids age 12 and younger don’t regularly eat three meals a day.

The WINK News drone captured long lines wrapping around the First Baptist Church in East Naples — every car representing a family hungry for help.

“Not working full-time and being a part-timer to provide something for the kids at this time is very hard,” said Maria Ramirez, a mother of six children.

Ramirez relies on St. Matthew’s House and Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, “to make sure they have food for the few days,” Ramirez said.

Bob Irzyk, the director of marketing at St. Matthew’s House, says Ramirez and many others are part of a heartbreaking pattern.

“We get a lot of mothers with their children coming through the lines,” Irzyk said. “Numbers keep going up, up and up.”

And Harry Chapin Food Bank says families in our communities need support.

“There’s a lot of need out there,” said Richard LeBer, the president and CEO of Harry Chapin. “There’s a lot of families, especially families with kids.”

Magdelys Gonzalez is a mother of two. She told us she skips meals so that her kids don’t have to.

It’s really hard to see your kids suffering without eating,” Gonzalez said.

And many of the mothers and a majority of the people who go to food distribution events go because they don’t know where their next meals are coming from.

“Yes, there are moments that you really start thinking, ‘I’m not working at this time, and how will we get our next meal for our child?’” said Dalila Lemus, a mother of two who spoke to us in Spanish before we translated to English.

The food banks continue to say cash donations are what help them the most at this time.

MORE: For information about St. Matthew’s House food distribution events, visit the St. Matthew’s House website here.

Reporter:Andrea Guerrero
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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