MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Not far from the hospitals, ICUs, and COVID-19 units you can find plenty of people impacted by the coronavirus, though not infected with it.
They are jobless, homeless and hungry.
Long food lines are now all too familiar across the country as food insecurity hits hard in the days leading up to Christmas.
In South Florida, one in five people does not know where their next meal is coming from.
Over the weekend, people lined up before dawn at South Florida mall but they were not there to holiday shop. They were in line for food.
“I’ve always been hesitant about coming because I, (begins crying) I’m sorry. I would hate for me to get the last of something and the person behind me be in a worse position than I am,” Deborah Hightower.
It’s a scene replayed across the country.
From Los Angeles, where one food bank says the distribution of groceries has doubled since the pandemic began, to the suburbs of Atlanta, where 500 cars waited for an hour and a half before a distribution started.
“This is another indication of the pain and the suffering that’s being felt all across our nation,” said Michael Thurmond, CEO of DeKalb County.
Since the pandemic began in March, hunger in the United States has skyrocketed.
Feeding America, the nation’s largest food bank network, reports a 60-percent increase in demand over last year.
In South Florida, one in five people need food assistance and a quarter of children go to bed hungry, according to Feeding South Florida.
“So this is hard for me to come here,” said Hightower, an accountant.
The mother of three teenagers was recently hospitalized and says she has lost her job twice since the pandemic started.
“I’m very independent and do not like to ask for help but sometimes, you just have to, God humbles you,” she said.
Larry Battisti waited for hours but not for food for himself. It was for three members of his church who are unemployed or can’t leave their homes due to COVID concerns.
“You certainly get a lot of smiles but you can’t hug them anymore,” he said.
As the pandemic surges, demand for food is expected to grow.