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Second Harvest reports spike in Central Floridians searching for food assistance

Second Harvest
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Second Harvest of Central Florida estimates that it provides 300,000 meals a day through its 625 partners in seven counties.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is seeing a significant increase in the number of people looking for free food online.

Second Harvest provides the food for about 300,000 meals a day in seven counties, according to Chief Development Officer Greg Higgerson.

"A level of need that we've never fully met for food in Central Florida is still at a very, very high level," he said. That level has remained fairly steady since the worst days of the pandemic.

Like those times, he said, the nonprofit is seeing a spike in the number of people using its online Food Finder tool to locate one of its 625 distribution partners near them.

"When it starts to spike," Higgerson said, "it's usually an indicator that there are people looking for help for the first time."

Higgerson said Food Finder searches have nearly doubled in recent months. In September, there were 592 a day, two-and-a-half times more than a year earlier.

He says low-income families are being hit from all directions by a combination of rising costs. Those include higher prices for groceries, rent, transportation, insurance and health care.

Higgerson said many low-income families have little in the way of savings to address a crisis. A Bankrate study found that 22% of Americans have no emergency savings at all.

In recent months, some families have lost Medicaid coverage. And this month, college debt payments resumed.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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