Miami-Dade, Broward residents wait in long lines as post-Irma food assistance resumes

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Almost two months after Hurricane Irma affected Florida, the organization Food for Florida continues to offer assistance to South Florida residents.

Thousands lined up at both venues: the BB&T Center in Sunrise and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Lines have moved more efficiently due to distribution being done alphabetically, as follows:

  • Tuesday: A-F
  • Wednesday: G-P
  • Thursday: Q-Z

Officials said both locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will help residents sign-up for Florida’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) until Thursday.

However, the sites may still close early as in previous instances. Just before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, officials closed the lines at Hard Rock Stadium after they reached capacity. Officials said those already in line will be helped, but anyone else will be asked to come back on Thursday.

“We tried to salvage it by using the coolers and things of that sort,” said Shannon Dixon who’s seeking assistance. “With us being out of power for like nine days, it was really tough.”

The Department of Children and Families reactivated the Food for Florida program in Miami-Dade County.

Some residents at Hard Rock Stadium said they woke up at the crack of dawn for a good spot in line. “I woke up around 2:30 a.m.,” said recipient Victor Ballon. “I got here about 3:15 a.m.”

Another man said he was in line with his godmother, Juanita Brunson, at 3 a.m. “During the hurricane, we lost a lot of food,” said Brunson. “It really would help. Thank God for it.”

She’s now headed home with a loaded card to help her restock after the storm.

Ballon said that the lines are not surprising. “It’s definitely something we need, and we’re willing to go ahead and make these lines since 3 in the morning to go ahead and get this.”

As of 6 p.m., Tuesday, about 15,000 families were aided through the program.

Officials said everything has gone smoothly and that the wait time has only been no more than an hour and a half.

“We’re just excited to be able to help the community,” said Beatriz Lopez with the Department of Children and Families. “Thanks to the extraordinary response to our last event, we were able to apply to USDA for more sites and more days.”

Some who waited in line were able to get pictures and autographs with Miami Dolphins players. “Just lightening up their day, seeing them smile. It’s a blessing to be in the position to see people smile,” said Miami Dolphins wide receiver Malcolm Lewis. “Just trying to give back, make them feel better.”

“The turn out has been unbelievable, so the fact that we’re able to come out here and maybe put a smile on some people’s faces is awesome,” said Miami Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey.

At the BB&T Center, some residents got in line on Monday night. “Some people were here at 7:45 last night,” said a resident.

More than a dozen cars were once again lined up outside the center Tuesday night in anticipation for assistance.

“It helps tremendously because I lost a lot,” said Shelly Lopez, who was among those waiting overnight.

Another resident said the lines were much smoother this time. “First time was chaotic in HIllsboro Beach,” said the unnamed resident. “This time is much more organized.”

7News caught up with some that received their cards, Tuesday afternoon. “I am not hitting the gym today,” said Ballon. “That’s all I’m gonna say. I already did my workout. I did my two miles, my three miles. I’m good, but it was worth it.”

“It went smooth and quickly,” said another man. “Piece of cake.”

Once people make it inside, the process goes by quickly because residents are given access cards, making the wait time just a few minutes. “Outside, one hour,” said one woman. “Inside? Oh, less than 15 minutes. Fast, yes!”

Juan Castro and his father arrived at the BB&T Center at 2 a.m., Tuesday, and were out before 9 a.m. “It’s super fast,” said Castro. “You just gotta kinda sign your pre-application and then they take you down to the arena, and that’s about it. They ask you a few questions, and that’s it.”

Department of Children and Families’ Beatriz Lopez said the three-day event was created in response to their previous work in South Florida post-Irma. “Thanks to the extraordinary response to our last event, we were able to apply to USDA for more sites and more days,” she said. “We decided to do this mega-site.”

Motorists are asked to park their vehicles on site at the BB&T Center.

Officials recommend residents pre-register online and that they bring identification, their Social Security number and date of birth of everyone in their household.

To pre-register online for the Food for Florida program, go to www.myflfamilies.com/fff

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