The government has injected $1.4 million into the National Food Distribution (NFD) 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, said Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.
The Task Force is delivering emergency food assistance for 12 weeks. The program started on June 1 and will continue to August 31, 2020. The government is funding 85 percent of the costs for food distribution and its NGO partners are funding 15 percent through donations to their respective organizations.
“This is one of the largest and most unprecedented such food programs in the history of The Bahamas,” the prime minister told MPs during his contribution to the 2020/21 Budget Debate on Monday, June 22.
“It is a massive logistical program comprising the entire country. It is also one of the largest ever public/private social care initiatives in the history of The Bahamas, utilizing a caring network of faith-based institutions and NGOs.”
The National Food Distribution Task Force was created by the government and is built on existing models of success, leveraging available expertise and widespread networks throughout the country, said the prime minister.
In order to facilitate the coordination of the food distribution plan, zones have been established. New Providence has been divided into four major zones and Grand Bahama into five zones. Other zones include Abaco, Eleuthera, the Northern Bahamas and the Southern Bahamas.
Each zone has been assigned a lead NGO. In New Providence, the Nassau City Zone is being led by the Lend a Hand Bahamas organization; the Northeast Zone, Bahamas Feeding Network; the Southeast Zone, Bahamas Red Cross; and the West Zone, Hands for Hunger.
On the island of Abaco, IDEA Relief has been identified as the zone leader; in Grand Bahama, the GB Food Task Force; in Eleuthera, ONE Eleuthera; for the Northern Bahamas, Bahamas Red Cross will assist; and in the Southern Bahamas, it's the Bahamas Feeding Network.
Zone leaders are partnering with other groups in their respective zones to maximize outreach.
The Department of Social Services will continue to provide assistance to the entire Bahamas. The first COVID-19 Emergency Food Coupon was issued by the Department on 7 April. Since then, a total of 1,098 individuals have received coupons at a total value of $134,050.
Outside of that amount, a total of 120 clients of the Disability Affairs Unit received COVID-19 Emergency Food Coupons at a total value of $6,720. Those coupons were issued from March 20 to June 5.
During April and May, through NGOs and the private sector, 137,350 people were supplied with food at a cost of $2.02 million. A total of 41,014 units, which include parcels or vouchers, were distributed.
The first $900,000 provided by the Government has been used to assist more than 76,000 people. A total of 5,054 units, inclusive of food parcels or vouchers, were distributed. The Government released an additional $500,000 to the Task Force on Friday, June 19, said the prime minister.
“Because of the events of less than a year, it is the primary moral responsibility of my Government to aid the tens of thousands of Bahamians in need of jobs, social assistance, food and tangible hope,” said Prime Minister Minnis.
“Through our expanded support of the Department of Social Services feeding programs, and the work of the National Food Distribution Task Force, we will ensure that all Bahamians have adequate food supply. The $25 million allocation for food support in the Department of Social Services is testament to this,” he concluded.