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Some Bahamians say gov’t food program going a long way

Marissa Wallace, 33, a mother of three, said she stands on a line at 6 a.m. every Friday to collect food items from the government’s food assistance program to feed her family.

Wallace has been unemployed since October 2019.

“When the pandemic hit, things were still rough because businesses were shutting down and I was unable to find a job and that made things worse,” she said.

“I was feeling this before the pandemic hit and even more now, but there were times people looked out for me and made sure I was straight.”

She is one of more than 110,000 people who are receiving help from the government’s food assistance program.

According to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, “To date, 27,705 households have registered for assistance, representing more than 110,000 people across the length and breadth of our country.”

Due to the recent layoffs in jobs, the government has now been forced to provide additional resources for residents to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteers assist with distribution at the Bahamas Red Cross southeast zone of National Food Distribution Task Force at Gospel Light Baptist Church.

Despite her challenges, Wallace said the program came when she needed it most.

Wallace applied in June and has been receiving assistance ever since.

“That program goes a long way,” she said.

“Some people would complain and say it is not enough, but some things I didn’t have, I have it now.

“I didn’t have sugar, they sent that. I didn’t have cereal, I got it. I didn’t have milk, I got that too.”

Wallace said even though she did not have an abundance of groceries, she still found it easy to share with those who were also in need.

She noted, “Some people who did not get, I would take one or two items out of my bag and give it to them even though it may not be much.”

The mother of three said the grocery bill she would have incurred, is now applied to utility bills.

She added, “I just don’t spend as much as I used to, so that money I would have used for grocery bills I can put that on my utility bill, so that’s good help.”

“I don’t have any shame, I stand in line from 6 a.m.

“Can you imagine sitting down at home all day waiting on something to drop in your hand?”

Jennarosa Johnson, 49, said everyone in her household, including her, were laid off from jobs in the tourism industry.

She said she was down to her last with grocery items when she learned about the food assistance program.

“To be honest, I am glad I signed up for it because I am able to make food for my children,” she said.

“Being home from work, unemployed, you wonder sometimes how you’re going to provide for your family. As a single mother, I do my very best to make sure that we survive during this pandemic.”

Johnson said the process to obtain food packages was smooth stating that some of her favorite items were included.

“Last week, they literally blew me out of the water with my package,” she said.

“There were fresh tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, limes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and a 10-pound bag of chicken leg quarters, ground turkey and pork chops.”

She noted that although her situation was exhausting for a while, she has been grateful for the assistance that has been making things much easier for her.

“It keeps getting better and I dare not complain, and what I have now I am very appreciative of it,” she said.

Kacey Johnson, 21, a young single mother of one, said she is surviving from a side business, but income has not been steady due to the closure of her business.

“The beauty industry has suffered a lot during this pandemic, and things have been really slow,” she said.

Johnson said although she is not in dire need of food, the assistance goes a very long way.

“Any money I save is good because I don’t have to spend it on essential grocery items that they include in my package,” she said.

Johnson said the packages are filled with a variety of items that will last on a week-to-week basis. She added that it is rare that she has ever had to tow a long line to receive her items.

“When I go on Fridays, I normally just walk straight up to the area of distribution, show them my I.D. and they give me my food package,” she said.

After a tiresome and troubling experience in trying to collect benefits from the National Insurance Board (NIB) for months, Tija Sawyer, 29, a single mother, said she was eager to see if there would be any relief with the government’s food assistance program.

“It’s just me and my daughter and my job was heavily reliant on the tourism industry, so I looked to help from NIB,” she said.

“In April, I signed up for NIB for their assistance and it was a horrible experience for me straight into July.”

Despite this, Sawyer and her daughter stood in line with the sun at its peak to collect the food package.

“The experience for me was not bad at all, I would not complain because it’s a really good help,” she said.

“You have people out there who are very frustrated I guess because they aren’t satisfied with the small bags of grocery they received.”

She said that there are so many battles the country is faced with there is barely enough time to adjust. 

“It was very challenging when nothing was coming, but after getting some assistance there was some relief and I had to tell myself that the bills won’t stop so I have to adjust,” she said.

“Right now we’re in a very hard place. I try to remember that because everyone is fighting something and we must remember to be more friendly and be more kind to each other.

“It’s just a matter of being resilient.”

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Italia Clarke

Italia Clarke joined the Nassau Guardian in August 2020. Clarke covers national, human interest and social issues. Education: University of The Bahamas, BA in Media Journalism

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