LAKELAND, Fla. — Work is being done to end hunger in Polk County by addressing access to food.
Dozens line up at Munn Park in downtown Lakeland to get a free hot meal provided by the Polk County Democratic Socialists of America.
Polk DSA is there every Wednesday and Sunday at 11 a.m., feeding those in need. It’s one less meal Jerry Zacharski has to worry about.
“There’s some people from the shelter out here people that stay out here and some passerby's too, so we’re really happy,” Zacharski said.
While the focus on food insecurity is heightened during the holidays, Polk DSA said it’s a yearlong issue that has gotten worse during the pandemic.
“We see families and children come through. We see people that are on break at work. They're working a full-time job and still can't afford to buy groceries,” said Katie Smith, Cochair of Polk County Democratic Socialists of America.
The group also started a free fridge and pantry located at 516 Windsor Street in Lakeland.
“If you have something like groceries, like milk that you’re not going to use, but it’s unopened and unexpired. You can put it in the fridge and anyone who needs it can come pick it up,” Smith said.
Nearly 14% of Polk County residents experience food insecurity, according to data from Feeding America in 2018.
To tackle the issue Polk Vision formed Polk County's Food Security Council which is currently in the process of creating a food security asset map.
“Be able to show where the feeding organizations are, their hours of operation the population they’re intended to serve,” said Kim Long, Polk Vision Executive Director.
Long said the goal is to get an adequate supply of nutritious food to hungry families.