By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
WITH more than 35,000 households nationwide registered under the National Food Distribution Task Force, its Chairman Susan Larson has said there is a need to extend the programme past month’s end.
The food assistance programme was implemented in June and is to come to a close on August 31.
“We all know that the need is there,” Mrs Larson said in an interview with The Tribune. “…Unfortunately our increase in COVID-19 cases has made the extension of the programme needed. Well as of this morning (Thursday) there are 35,500 households registered. So this is a huge number and it’s very gratifying to understand the magnitude of recovery that’s needed for our entire country in the face of this pandemic.
“And, food assistance is just one aspect of the recovery that is facing our country. So the numbers certainly puts a spotlight on the magnitude. One of our concerns though is that we need, also as a country, to understand the difference between the most vulnerable and those that may just be uncomfortable.”
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has said the National Food Distribution Programme is one of the largest and most unprecedented programmes in the country’s history and utilises a caring network of faith-based institutions and NGOs.
Ms Larson said all creative stops are pulled out to manage such a heavy number of registrants. The 35,500 households equate to 145,000 individuals to feed.
“The programme was always designed to help the most vulnerable people and we have to make sure that we are getting food to people that are in that category,” Ms Larson said. “So the number facing the task force is very, very large. We certainly are using every resource and every creative mechanism that we can think of to manage the number.
“In one of our more densely populated areas in the Nassau city zone, ‘Lend a Hand’ has been using social media to stay in touch with the many thousands of people that are in just that one area. And, this week they are using a crowd management app to help alleviate the wait time that makes people frustrated and also a demand on the distribution areas where they exist. Using something that’s created as a web crowd management app, just to help make the programme more efficient is a tiny glimpse into all the ways we are working to make the programme run as smoothly as possible.”
Dr Minnis in his last address to the nation, said the programme is costing the government $1million a week. Initially the government NGO partners were funding 15 percent through donations to their organisations and the government is funding 85 percent of the costs.
Asked if the high numbers of registrants has surprised her, Ms Larson said no, but the key is to take care of those numbers quickly and efficiently.
“The number is not surprising,” she continued. “In our projections we certainly had a variety of scenarios that we addressed way back in May. We understand where some of these numbers are routed and we are just working really hard to address the magnitude of the problem as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
Ms Larson said more supplies and more donations will always be accepted and put to good use. She said her team is cramming as much value for as little money into each food parcel and into each voucher. So more resources will be helpful.
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