By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Many in South Florida are finding themselves knocking on the doors of food banks as the ramifications of the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 continue to eat away at their financial savings and paychecks.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Eric Trope said. “Just hearing across the board, so many stories of hardship of people being unexpectedly laid off for the first time in their life… people really knocked off their feet.”

Trope and others came up with an unconventional approach to feeding families in need. They’re putting refrigerators loaded with free food in public places.

“When people are struggling to pay rent, have so many financial hardships and burdens and this would be one less thing to take off of their plate,” Trope said.

The impacts are widespread.

“The numbers are staggering,” said Judith Cruz, the Treasure Coast Food Bank.

Cruz said the need for food assistance is overwhelming. And making matters worse, food banks that are struggling to keep up with the demand are now running out of money and out of food as a federal coronavirus food assistance program that’s funding these pantries is set to expire Dec. 31.

“Since the pandemic, the increase in need of food assistance has jumped to 200%,” Cruz said.

And this holiday season more than half a million Floridians are still unemployed and many are grappling with the stigma attached to food banks.

“I know that’s been a difficult barrier for some people to overcome,” Cruz said. “Because there’s a fear that sets in, a vulnerability that might not have been there before.”

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With the clock ticking, food banks know it will take more than what they have in stock to feed those who truly are in need.

But for now, these pop-up public refrigerators are one way neighbors have stepped up to the plate.

“It’s difficult for the country to watch and I think we’re all trying to figure out how to step up and respond in the ways we can,” Trope said. Team