Food collected for Puerto Rico now helping evacuees in Central Florida

By Stephanie Bechara, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 10:25 PM EST

Thousands of pounds of food meant to aid Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria made landfall will now help evacuees in Central Florida.

  • Food meant for Puerto Rico now helping evacuees
  • Food collected never made it to island; was in warehouse
  • FEMA said food, water need went down on island
  • RELATED: Hurricane Maria impact 

Fifty-thousand pounds of food were brought to the St. John the Evangelist Church in Kissimmee for distribution, and the meals will not just stay in Osceola County — they’ll be passed out around Orange and Brevard counties, and all over Central Florida.

Jose Rodriguez, a priest at the Iglesia Episcopal Jesus de Nazaret in Orlando, said he works with families that struggle to pay for groceries daily and that a good chunk of them are Puerto Ricans who recently arrived from the island.

“We have homeless families couch-surfing. Last night I met one family … they were two families sharing one bedroom,” Rodriguez said. “We have people that are piling up in cars, helping each other … Forming communities at hotels. The need is great.”

Rodriguez is happy to be helping sort out 50,000 pounds of food they received from FEMA. Each one of the boxes is filled with food like cereal, canned items and even milk.

“The numbers are just enormous, and this is just the second wave. We don't know how many people are coming in terms of the future,” said Greg Brewer, a Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. “That’s one of the reasons we wanted to make this the main place here because it’s such a flashpoint of real need in the Central Florida area.”

Initially the food was meant to go to Puerto Rico; however, the meals never made it to the island. They were being held at a Jacksonville warehouse instead.

We reached out to FEMA, who said the need for food and water to be distributed in the island has gone down as more private sectors open up.

The meals have expiration dates, so they’re working with locals in Florida to pass these goods out.

“God told me to feed his people, and that’s what I do every day,” said Reverend John Clark with No One Hungry. “And that’s what this project and initiative here in Kissimmee is — Project Feed My People, because we’re trying to reduce hunger and give hope to people who are hungry.”

FEMA said they have distributed over 50 million meals and 50 million liters of water, and that they have more or less the same amount in stock on standby for Puerto Rico.