Food insecurity continues to grow in SWFL during pandemic in 2021

It’s been a year since the pandemic began, and the need for food is still growing in Southwest Florida. For many, this pandemic has meant losing a job and not knowing how to feed the family. With lives turned upside down, food banks have been there to fill the need for millions of people at their tables.

We looked at how St, Matthew’s House is keeping up with food insecurity in Southwest Florida Thursday during the pandemic.

In the month of March, St. Matthew’s House has already fed thousands of families. At two earlier food distribution events, more than 500 families received food, and hundreds more showed up for meals during an event at Mount Olive A.M.E. Church in Fort Myers Thursday.

Boxes filled with food are what have been keeping people from missing out on meals.

In March 2020, we started to see lines that went on for miles filled with people trying to make sure their families didn’t go hungry. Nearly a year later, in the heart of our communities, many continue to struggle.

Lines and lines of cars with community members at food distributions are still a common sight in Southwest Florida.

A pastor explained they have never served less than 1,300 vehicles with community members inside.

Dee Gissendaner was together with the thousands of community members at the Thursday event. Because of the pandemic, she is among thankful recipients.

“I’m not working right now,” Gissendaner said. “I haven’t been for over a year, and funds get tight.”

Gissendaner knows it’s not her alone who is struggling. She also picks up food for her neighbors.

“Everyone’s in the same boat,” Gissendaner said. “They’re having hard times, and we need to feed families.”

In 2020, St. Matthew’s House fed 86,000 families. In 2021, they expect that number to grow to 150,000 families.

St. Matthew’s House had three different food distribution events in Lee and Collier counties Thursday.

“We are doing a major and very important job,” Pastor James Givens said. “Focus that we are feeding hungry children and those families who can’t put food on the table.”

Reporter:Andrea Guerrero
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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