By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
MANY Bahamians who are recipients of the $1m a week National Food Distribution Programme say they are grateful, but others are expressing anger in having to rely on it in the first place.
In June when COVID-19 restrictions began to relax, the government implemented the National Food Distribution Task Force made up of public and private stakeholders.
Those who found themselves needing help with food, due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and layoffs, signed up for the assistance. Over 27,705 households have signed up for the program so far.
The Tribune spoke to some of the recipients and asked if the programme is benefitting them.
“This is a very depressing situation”, said Miranda Dorsette, a mother-of-three.
“I mean I realise they are trying to help us but this is like begging. I am used to working hard for what I get. The food is okay, I guess, but the thought of having to be in a line to get it… the whole thing is humiliating to me. I am doing it because I can’t do any better right now.
“I am in a position where my children’s father is not assisting me in any way and I am in need. I can’t go around breaking the law to provide for them, so I would rather get this and call it a day. I don’t want to come off as ungrateful as that man on the video said, so I say, thank God for it.”
The government’s budget for the programme is $16m, but according to the Prime Minister back in June $1.4m was injected into the National Food Distribution Task Force since the public/private group was established to provide emergency food assistance for vulnerable Bahamians and residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The programme is 12 weeks in duration – June 1 to August 31.
NGO partners are funding 15 percent through donations to their organisations and the government is funding 85 percent of the costs.
Former hotel worker, Lillian Joseph, said she is happy to receive the food, but wishes it was more.
“I am very happy and proud that the government help us in this way,” she said.
“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t get this. My friends were trying to tell me not to go for it, but they weren’t giving me nothing so I get my food and I am glad for it.”
Miriam Smith worked in a jewellery store downtown. She has not worked in months and has not received any assistance payments from NIB. She said it is very difficult to feed her family and puts the blame at the feet of the government.
“Buju Banton said it’s not an easy road and who feels it knows it and I am living that now,” said Ms Smith.
“I am suffering. This government must really hate the people of this country. That’s all I can say. They lock us up like animals for months, then let us out so we can get sick and then lock us up again. We can’t work. We can’t make any money. And, now they throwing food at us like we are paupers.
“The rich get richer in this country and the poor get poorer. I was on my little job and doing okay. Mind you, I was not making that much money, but I was managing. Then everything shut down and now I am getting food from the government!! This is the worse point of my entire life. How you think this makes me feel? And, what they giving us, is not even all of that. It’s not what people are used to eating. I give up.”
During his contribution to the 2020/2021 Budget debate at Parliament, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis touted the food distribution programme as one of the largest and most unprecedented programmes in the country’s history. He said it is a massive logistical program comprising the entire country and also one of the largest ever public/private social care initiatives in the history of The Bahamas, utilising a caring network of faith-based institutions and NGOs.