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Demand Grows For Orlando Food Assistance Program

Cost Share Grocery store. Photo courtesy of Community Food and Outreach Center.
Cost Share Grocery store. Photo courtesy of Community Food and Outreach Center.

Orlando may be the most popular tourist destination in the US, but it has a long way to go to address hunger, homelessness and poverty. Eric Gray, executive director of the Community Food and Outreach Center, is working to try and move people above the poverty line.

The center provides subsidized groceries to needy families, and other services like housing assistance, job search help and mental health counselling.

Gray said about 119,000 people shop at CFOC's grocery store each year.

I think the one thing that’s really striking for people that they see is the number of uniforms that people are wearing when they’re shopping: people that are working at theme parks, restaurants, hotels and the like," said Gray.

He said the center enrolls about 22 new members a day in its cost share grocery program- compared to two new people a day in 2013.

The holidays put even more strain on those living in poverty.

“When people are working off of very tight budgets to begin with, that extra $10 or $100 that you’re spending can be disastrous, so people are going into credit card debt just to buy toys for their children,” said Gray.

Gray wants to move people above 200 % of the federal poverty level- that’s $48,500 a year for a family of four. Part of the solution, he said, is education. The center works with Orange County Public Schools to provide training. Equally important, said Gray, he wants to get more people talking about the problem of poverty so they can come up with ways to fix it.


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