Grocery Assistance Available
And while some villages are hard hit by not being able to go buy cheap
groceries across the border, they can get help.
There is the Food Assistance Program, which is being managed by the
Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation, and Poverty
Alleviation. Under this program, households which have been devastated
by the pandemic receive food baskets every two weeks. In order for a
household to qualify, the residents of the selected homes cannot be
benefiting from the Unemployment Relief Program, the Boost program, the
Food Pantry Program, and the breadwinners of the family must be
This program was also recently renewed for a second phase, and at this
time, priority is being given to needy families in San Pedro, Guinea
Grass, Shipyard, and Santa Marta, which are currently on a strict,
14-day lockdown due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.
Yesterday, we got a chance to speak with the Human Development
Ministry's Director of Women and Family Support Department. She gave us
an overview of how the Food Assistance Program has been performing.
Here's that conversation:
Anna Williams - Director, Women, and Family Support Department
"Before this lockdown, we've instituted an extension of our existing food
assistance program. So, what we've done is to develop an online platform
that helps in this situation. So, what happens is, how the process works
[is] we have persons applying. There's an online application that persons
would go in to apply. Once they apply, a social worker does an assessment.
Based on that, if they are eligible, there's a direct order that goes to a
store to say, Miss Anna Williams is approved for 1 basket. And then, that
person is given an order number for them to go to the store, and then, they
pick up whatever the food basket may be that they have approved. What this
has done for us, putting in this online platform, it has helped us greatly
in the sense that we can now access stores at the village level. So, prior,
with our food assistance program, we had persons being approved at the city
level and having to come from villages. With this online platform, we go
directly to the village. Persons pick up within their village. It's basic
food items. So, we're looking at flour, sugar, rice, beans. There's chicken
in it. There are vegetables as well. And then, baskets that we're giving
are supposed to last families for 2 weeks."
"We were told that it was specifically for the lockdown communities. Is
that indeed accurate?"
"It is for the lockdown communities that we're dealing with as a priority
for now. But no, the food assistance program continues countrywide. So,
there are still persons outside these communities that are still walking
into the offices district-wide, persons also calling in and making their
applications countrywide as well. There are some families receiving ongoing
baskets still. So, what we do is we encourage other families that, maybe at
the time when we started, they may not have been eligible. But, we know
there's been a length of time. So, at this time, some of these families'
savings may have been depleted, etc. Different circumstances arose now. So,
we're encouraging those families to then apply, [so] that we can look for
them as additional to what is already in the system being assisted now."
Under the Food Assistant Program, the Government has assisted 37,092
households countrywide, which make up a total of 136,619 individuals.
There are also 200 shops and grocery stores all over the country, which
are part of the network set up to put the program into operation.