Miami to distribute $250 gift cards to feed hungry residents

The city of Miami will be giving out $250 gift cards next month to residents who can’t afford groceries, as more Americans struggle to put food on the table due to widespread unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The rise in Americans’ food insecurity

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Marking the latest local effort to combat a surge in hunger amid the pandemic, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez tweeted on Tuesday that Publix gift cards would be handed out December 1. To get a gift card, families must present proof of residence in Miami and a signed application saying they’ve suffered financial hardships due to COVID-19. The gift cards will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The number of families struggling to buy food has grown since the start of the pandemic, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis data show. Rising hunger has hit families with children and women of color particularly hard.

All told, more than 50 million Americans will face hunger this year, according to Feeding America projections. That translates to 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 4 children. Families in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi have seen the sharpest rise in hunger, the nonprofit organization said. 

Gift cards in Miami are just one way cities are trying to feed needy residents. Denver gave grants of up to $50,000 to its local nonprofits and food pantries while Seattle passed out $800 grocery store vouchers to 6,250 families. 

Rising unemployment has put food banks in high demand as families flock to their facilities for meals. The North Texas Food Bank told CBS News that volunteers are serving 10 million meals a month.

“History tells us that we can expect to see this elevated need for at least the next two years,” the food bank’s chief external affairs officer Erica Yeager said.

Hungry families existed long before the health crisis struck, but the pandemic has pushed more people into food insecurity, Feeding America CEO Claire Babineaux-Fontenot said in a statement. 

Anti-hunger advocates say the key to reducing hunger is boosting the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. Congress has taken steps to do so in March, when the Families First Coronavirus Response Act added funding to the food stamp program. Lawmakers later extended the boost until September 2021. 

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