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Thousands receive food assistance from DCF in Sarasota and Bradenton

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BRADENTON, FL (WWSB) - It's unclear how much it will cost to repair all the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, but FEMA has already approved $737,000,000 to financially help families in Florida. Now, the Department of Children and Families is helping local victims in Sarasota and Manatee counties through its Food for Florida program.
On Sunday, October 15, the Department of Children and Families helped those in need at its on-site location at the DeSoto Square Mall. When staff arrived at 6:30 a.m., 4,500 people were in line wrapped around the mall, all looking to get food stamps to help relieve some of the financial stress caused by Hurricane Irma.
"We're on social security, we don’t have a lot of money," explained Bradenton resident Kathy Dow.
Dow and her husband Ernest have seen many high's and low's during their 45 year marriage. One of the most difficult was when a tree fell on their home during Hurricane Irma.
"It knocked down the power lines," explained Ernest Dow. "There were sparks. The tree was catching on fire."
The damage total came to more than $7,000 for the roof repairs, but the Dow's also had to replace all of their food since their home was without power for six days.
"Food prices are going up. It’s hard. Just for two of us and the dog its about $125 a week," said Kathy Dow.
"We didn’t have a generator or anywhere to keep cold food," said Bradenton resident Deborah Williams.
Williams, the Dow's, and thousands of other families took advantage of DCF's Food for Florida program. All eligible families will receive the maximum amount of food assistance at least 72 hours after registration. Families already receiving food stamps, who are not currently receiving maximum the maximum allotment, will get additional benefits added to their EBT cards for September and October.
"We’d just buy a little bit at a time until now, and now we’re going to stock it up," said Williams of her family's plan.
Dozens of DCF staff members will be on hand at the DeSoto and Sarasota Square Malls through Tuesday, October 17 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. DCF has employees who speak Spanish and Creole, and a separate area for those with special needs. Families are eligible based on income and must have experienced a disaster related loss. Even though the Dow's incurred thousands of dollars in disaster related expenses, they said it could've been much worse.
"I'm sure there are other people that are worse off than we are," said Ernest Dow. "[Like in] Puerto Rico. I’m sure they need it."
Individuals and families can expedite the process by pre-registering online through the DCF website.