In the face of the food emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Food Bank of Puerto Rico and a number of heavy-hitting partners have destined a combined $1 million in vouchers, certificates and gift cards to needy sectors to buy food in certain establishments, the nonprofit announced.
The initiative is possible through alliances with members of the food industry as an additional measure to the Food Bank’s ongoing food distribution efforts through grassroots organizations, the nonprofit’s President Denise L. Santos said.
“We’ve developed this emergency strategy recognizing the island’s situation. For our organization, it’s a priority to address food security, while helping to strengthen the economy,” said Santos, while acknowledging the Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution (MIDA, in Spanish) and the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association as initiative partners.
With the support of other organizations, including Jeff Bezos, Medtronic, Feeding America, Fundación Extra Bases – Carlos Delgado, Fundación Triple-S, No Kid Hungry and West Pharma, the Food Bank has been distributing vouchers and certificates so people can buy groceries in supermarkets such as Econo, Selectos, Pueblo, Walmart and Mr. Special.
Beneficiaries may also buy prepared food in restaurants such as KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Popeyes, Olive Garden, Pollo Tropical, Church’s and Subway, Santos said.
The vouchers, both for supermarkets and restaurants, are being distributed by organizations attend to the island’s needy directly, have an islandwide reach, and have the resources to reach them immediately, including: United Way; AARP; P.E.C.E.S.; COSSAO; GOD Corp; and, Send Relief, among others.
The nonprofits are distributing:
- 1,907 prepaid cards/certificates valued at $190,000 ($100 each) for food purchases at Econo, Selectos, Pueblo, Walmart and Mr. Special supermarkets, which will be valid until summer 2020. Some 37,651 people will benefit.
- To meet the immediate need for prepared foods, 3,720 certificates valued at $79,500 were distributed for family combos from KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Popeyes, Olive Garden, Pollo Tropical, Church’s and Subway restaurants, benefiting more than 16,036 people.
- $22,000 for farmers through an alliance with COSSAO in Utuado, through the “Healthy Boxes” project that will distribute 100 boxes containing agricultural products on a weekly basis, for the next four weeks, to families from the Jayuya, Utuado and Ciales communities. More boxes containing fruits, vegetables and other locally harvested products will be distributed through Agroimperio.
- 22 food distribution centers were established through faith-based and community-based organizations that have the infrastructure to reach out to families in need, the nonprofit said. Through provisions from the Departments of Education, Family, Agriculture, the USDA and purchases worth $284,279 in bulk from local food distributors, 2,396,375 pounds of food have been distributed between March and April to 532,528 Puerto Rico residents affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
- The Food Bank is committing an additional $499,000 to be invested in food in May and June 2020 to help an additional 100,814 people through the centers.
The Food Bank of Puerto Rico continues to distribute food through its 155 agencies, which in turn distribute food to the elderly, people with physical and mental disabilities, the sick, families and children in poverty, Santos said.
During the month of March, 212,143 people were provided with 954,644 pounds of food and another 92,955 people in the first days of April. By the end of May 2020, the Food Bank estimates it will have served 755,575 meals to some 206,000 families across the Island, including Vieques and Culebra.