"The canned peaches have dwindled and candied yams have all but disappeared, replaced by empty crates piled high inside the Stop Hunger Inc. warehouse nestled at Northeast 120th Street and 14th Avenue in North Miami. On some mornings, the line extends out to the parking lot, so 77-year-old Shirley Williams arrives early, about 8 a.m., and pushes her wheelchair out of the sweltering heat. 'At my age, you can't afford to get lost in the crowd,' Williams joked on a recent Tuesday. Farther north, hundreds pack the tiny two-story building at Broward County's Cooperative Feeding Program, where staff members have had to add a second meal to daily feedings. The crowds - and the increasing demand for food - reflect a growing number of people across the state pushed into severe poverty, with income levels at or below half of the federal poverty line...In the meantime, volunteers at South Florida food banks see more and more new faces while their supply diminishes. 'We don't know half the people who come in here now. And our food shelves are constantly empty,' said Marti Forman, head of the Cooperative Feeding Program in Broward. The pantry has increased meals 24 per cent from 2004 to 2005, Forman said. At Stop Hunger, meal distributions have doubled to half a million meals a month in the last five years. The center also distributes food to 82 neighboring churches. 'We see more and more people...but our supplies have been cut considerably," said Malcolm Gabriel, Stop Hunger's executive director for programs. 'There's just a growing sense of desperation.' At the warehouse, Santiago Torres waited until most people left before picking up his own supplies. 'I'm embarrassed,' the 33-year old custodian said with a sigh. 'I've never done this before...but I can't let my kids starve." [emphasis added]
In stark contrast to Fisher Island, Miami is also home to the poorest zip code in America - Overtown.
"The 12,000 residents who live in Overtown's 1.8 square miles have a median household income of just $14,000 and a poverty rate of over 50%. Fear runs rampant - for security reasons Domino's Pizza refuses to deliver to Overtown. Miami has two sides; they are literally right next to each other, and literally worlds apart...While the United States is the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world, it also boasts some of the highest poverty levels of all the industrialized nations. Miami, in reality, is a microcosm for the United States as a whole." [from "Poverty in the Midst of Plenty"]
Miami clearly has its problems with the high rates of reported poverty. In reality, the picture is quite worse if all the immigrants are included. Most of the figures presented are from as far back as the 2000 census, and the economic situation is only declining. With the recent mortgage crisis, the credit card bubble about to burst, and the price of food skyrocketing over the last couple months, I have no doubt that Stop Hunger and the Cooperative Feeding Program will become much busier, and more and more unable to meet the increased demand as South Floridians are pushed further and further into poverty.
More to come because I'm still bitter.
Borrowed heavily from and with much gratitude to "Poverty in the Midst of Plenty" in Ivan Petrella's Beyond Liberation Theology: A Polemic. SCM Press, 2008.