The House and Senate are negotiating a funding package that could help South Florida seniors in need receive groceries right at their front door.
With South Florida’s tricounty area at the heart of the state’s COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers are now looking at whether to fund a food delivery program for seniors run by Feeding South Florida. But like all ongoing budget negotiations, it’s unclear how much money, if any, will be allocated to the effort.
Feeding South Florida serves as a food bank for Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. The organization also works to pair needy individuals or families with assistance programs and job training to help them escape food insecurity.
The elderly population has been eligible for vaccines for months, with more than 60% of South Florida seniors now fully vaccinated. But with work still to be done — and with seniors among the demographics most susceptible to COVID-19 — the food delivery program aims to help seniors in need secure food safely.
The House and Senate are still working to agree on a funding level for the program amid the larger budget negotiations currently ongoing. The latest proposal shows the House offering $1 million for the Feeding South Florida program. The Senate number currently sits at $500,000. But there’s still no guarantee the program will make the final budget presented to the Governor.
Republican Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin originally filed the funding request, pegging his desired funding amount at $1 million. Lawmakers did not provide any money for the effort last year.
“Prior to the pandemic, we knew that grocery delivery was much needed for homebound seniors in underserved communities,” Fernandez-Barquin explained in his funding request.
“COVID exacerbated this need and as such, Feeding South Florida (FSF) is seeking to fill this gap in service more permanently by delivering healthy and medically tailored groceries. At a cost of $77 per delivery, FSF can provide a senior grocery delivery program to serve a maximum of 1,000 households per month or 50 deliveries per day with the support of this funding.”
Under Fernandez-Barquin’s funding request, nearly three-quarters of the cash would go to food, boxes and other supplies used for the deliveries. The remainder would go toward employees and coordinators to help carry out the program.
An influx of cash will continue to help the organization provide for the region, which was the hardest-hit area in the state during the pandemic. Feeding South Florida jumped into action during the outbreak. In addition to providing its standard food distribution events — in drive-thru form, to promote health safety — the organization also collected meal boxes for students who lost out on school meals while remote learning remained in effect.
Lawmakers have sought to provide funding for the organization’s work over the years. The Legislature will now look to land on a final number as budget negotiations wrap by the end of the Legislative Session next week.