JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After visiting a federal vaccination site at the Gateway Mall on Monday, the next stop for Vice President Kamala Harris was at a local food bank to highlight food insecurity and how the coronavirus relief bill aims to address the issue.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried helped facilitate a discussion between Harris and other local lawmakers about the issue during a roundtable at Feeding Northeast Florida.
“The president, he says it all the time, which is: The most important thing that we can do when people are suffering is to see them, to hear them and to help them,” Harris said. “And when we think about the issue of food insecurity, let’s be clear, we are talking about hunger in Americans. And this is an issue that existed before the pandemic and was grossly exaggerated and amplified during this.”
.@VP is holding a listening session on food insecurity w/ @RepAlLawsonJr, Comm.@nikkifried, Councilmembers @GarrettDennis_1 & @CMJoyceMorgan, Superintednent @DrDianaGreene and Feeding Northeast Florida CEO Susan King. pic.twitter.com/MPpoItmpfs— Vincent Evans (@VinceEvans46) March 22, 2021
In total, Harris said the relief bill supplies about $1 billion directly targeting food insecurity including:
- The American Rescue Plan increases SNAP benefits by 15%, or $230/month, through the end of September.
- The P-EBT program, which provides funds to feed kids who are on free and reduced lunches, is extended through the end of the pandemic.
- WIC benefits have been extended by some $880 million.
Fried said that 40% of Black families and 39% of Hispanic families in Florida are experiencing chronic hunger.
“We’re working hard to address this at the state level, overseeing 246 million school meals served to children this year, as well as 149 million pounds of food distributed to families and seniors in need,” Fried said.