A year ago, Melissa thought she and her family were on solid financial ground. She and her husband and steady jobs, their bills were paid and their kids were thriving at school.
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, they both lost their jobs and watched their bank account balance drop weekly as they paid rent, utilities and other bills. Once stay at home orders were lifted, Melissa found an hourly retail job.
"You just start from the bottom and work your way back up," she said, determined to rebuild.
With inconsistent hours and fluctuating income, Melissa reached out for help, something she had never done before - and she's not alone. About 40 percent of the people who are visiting a food distribution have never had to ask for help with food assistance before.
When Melissa arrived at Lake Cares Food Pantry in Mount Dora, one of Second Harvest's 550 feeding partners, she followed the line of vehicles through the parking lot to where volunteers loaded groceries into her car. This contactless drive-up system has become the new normal at food pantries across Central Florida.
"We've always had a large number of seniors pick up food," explains Irene O'Malley, executive director at Lake Cares. "But now, more and more young families who are unemployed are turning to us for help. We haven't seen anything like this since the recession."
Melissa drove home with a trunk filled with pantry staples like peanut butter, cereal and canned soups, along with bread, fresh produce and milk.
"I have no idea what we would have done if we hadn't been able to connect with the pantry," says Melissa. “Thank you for being there for my family when we needed you."