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40K Without A Grocery Bag, Unemployment Relief Program on Hold #546674
12/04/20 05:45 AM
12/04/20 05:45 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 76,981
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

There have been no food pantries - or "grocery bags" -- for the past two weeks.

The "grocery bag" program - as it has been re-branded by the new minister in charge, Dolores Balderamos Garcia - has been put on pause since the Ministry is trying to reconfigure it. 10 days ago, Balderamos Garcia said it would be suspended for, quote, "a couple of days." Here's how she put it at the time:

Hon. Dolores Balderamons-Garcia - Minister, Human Development "It will be a couple of days there, please let me assure you, it's not going to be 2 weeks, 3 weeks, a month, Christmas the come, so we will do our best but realising of course that we're in difficult times, so work with us on that. It's the same thing but this is personal now, it has been renamed, grocery bag instead of pantry."

That was November 23rd and - according to our best information - it has not resumed. And, now, those who have depended on the program since its inception are wondering where their next food package will come from.

Sources tell us that the ministry has not announced a set date for when it will resume the program, since it seems it's still under review.

The Pantry Program and the Food Assistance program are social safety net programs instituted by the Barrow Administration - but criticised by the PUP for being overly politicised. But while politics is one thing - as many as 45 thousand persons were receiving food packages through these programs. We did try and get comment from Balderamos Garcia - who is currently at home with COVID 19.

Reports say the Unemployment Relief Program - has also been put on hold. 42 thousand persons are signed up to that program.

Channel 7

Re: 40K Without A Grocery Bag, Unemployment Relief Program on Hold [Re: Marty] #546707
12/05/20 05:56 AM
12/05/20 05:56 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 76,981
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Mickey And Minnie Mouse On Pantry List

It's been 11 days since the New Minister of Human Development, Dolores Balderamos Garcia announced a suspension and a re-branding of the food pantry program.

But the new government's version of the program which as we've reported is now named "grocery bag" remains on pause.

It's an issue that Cherisse Halsall took a deeper dive into today - and she found that pantry was popular to those receiving it, but viewed with suspicious and distrust by man - and for good reason! Here's why the pantry is on pause, what it means to recipients, and where it all started:

Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia
"It'll be a couple of days dear, let me assure you. It's not going to be 2-3 weeks or a month - Christmas di come, so we will do our best, but realizing of course that we are in difficult times, so work with us on that noh."

But that was almost 2 weeks ago and today the Minister told Channel 7 via text that a decision about the re-opening of "Grocery Bag" would be, quote, "Sorted out soon".

We tried to speak to a few of the Belizeans who'll have to survive the weekend while waiting on their next grocery bag. And to do so we reached out via facebook post. A post that was not universally loved. The comments ranged from the entertained to the Political, to the downright HOSTILE.

We even got screenshots of the pantry recipient lists. One listing "Jhgvm Hfnk" and "Hgvm Cab" as pantry recipients, and another indicating that Mickey and Minnie Mouse remain in line for their rice and beans and whole chicken. All these food pantry phantoms explain why the program has been taken temporarily offline for repairs.

But moving on from the cartoonish to real-life our post did allow us to speak to one single mother affected by this pause in the grocery bag.

She'd been on the Covid food assistance program but says that while she'd been guaranteed five weeks of grocery bags she only got one. She preferred to remain anonymous.

Voice of: Single Mother previously on Food Assistance program
"One day I got a call and said that I can go to such a place and get a pantry and from then the lady said that I would constantly get at least like five times but one day I called back and I asked the person, the person told me that my name had already in the computer stage well in the system said that I had already received all the pantries that I was supposed to get and it was like only one time they gave me help."

"Right now I'm just like on the down like hustling like how I have a machine and some people like how its been raining people are helping me by giving me a little helping hand or giving me their clothes so I can wash and they gave me a little bit of money and that's how I'm struggling right now. I'm renting at the same time and sometimes my babies father's they help me, sometimes no, right now it's a bit kind of struggling but thank god sometimes, well sometimes we don't have to eat or nothing but we are struggling the same way. It's been a difficult time and not only me , a good amount of people have the same problem."

"All I can say is they at least just try to move faster or say whether or not if they are going to help people or not because like how I said not only me or I cannot say that only me needs help. Everybody right now needs a helping hand."

Sources tell us that the grocery bag program is on the agenda to be discussed at Cabinet next week. Cop to November 11th, there were 45 thousand names on the list of recipients food pantry and the COVID 19 food assistance programme.

Channel 7

Re: 40K Without A Grocery Bag, Unemployment Relief Program on Hold [Re: Marty] #546777
12/09/20 05:52 AM
12/09/20 05:52 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 76,981
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Pantry Lines Returned This Morning

Pantry or Grocery Bag distribution centers, as they are now known, maybe in a type of administrative limbo - as the new government works out what it wants to do with the program.

But there were lines this morning at the Salvation Army Center on Regent street and the outage on Oleander Street. People we spoke to say that they were waiting in line for their grocery bags. And indeed while the day-to-day of the program may be in question these centers were allowed to deplete their remaining inventory.

Channel 7

Is Grocery Bag, a.k.a. Pantry, On or Off?

Today, many residents on the south side lined up to receive food packages, but is it a continuation of the ‘Grocery Bag’ programme? As you’ll recall, some two weeks ago, Minister of Human Development Dolores Balderamos Garcia told us that the food programmes in the ministry had to be put on hold and would resume in a few days. So, today, to our surprise and many of the residents, food packages were being given out at a food distribution location on Oleander Street in Belize City. While the officials at the ministry didn’t respond to our queries about the status of the programme today, we went out on the scene to find out from the recipients. Here’s the story.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Since eight o’clock this morning – people were streaming in and out of this location on Oleander Street in Belize City. They were carrying bags of food – which they say was their food supplies through the government’s food program – formerly pantry program now grocery bag. Belize City residents were in and out of the location and by eleven there was a steady flow of recipients. One resident says she is happy to receive her two week supply of groceries – she says this program for low-income families goes a long way for a family like hers where some fifteen of them depend on the supplies.

Bernadine Rivers, Recipient

“It means a lot to us because I nuh the work. I have two sons weh died and and thing and I have to help the grand pickney and great grand pickney and dah me deh look to. When time we neva mi the get it when they mi shut down I think for like three weeks we mi the tekwah licking. I had to get help from my daughtadeh and suh. So, with this lee pantry we really do good. So, we very, very glad and dah just wah lee link up because we neva mi know and somebody tell we and we say mek we come check and suh the Christmas weh the come and thing wah very good but we need wah lee more help and this wah work fi now.”

Andrea Polanco

“Suh, this dah something you wouldn’t like to see be closed down or put on pause again?”

Bernadine Rivers

“Definite we nuh wah see it closed down right now because dis dah wah very good help fi lotta people, not only me, lot, lotta nice poor people.”

Andrea Polanco

“How many people from your household benefit from this program?”

Bernadine Rivers

“Hmmm at least fifteen people, with kids and suh. So, that dahwah very good help.”

…and like Bernadine Rivers, thousands of other families who depend on this socio-economic program didn’t receive food supplies in the last three weeks or so. That’s because with the change of administration – new Minister of Human Development Dolores Balderamos Garcia said they had to put the program on pause to do some assessments. On November twenty-third, I asked the Ministerif the program will continue. Here’s what she said about the now renamed pantry program – called ‘Grocery Bag.’

Andrea Polanco

“Does that assistance continue?”

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development

“It will continue, but we have put a small pause because we want to make a review. There are actually two different programs; one that we used to call Pantry – by the way that word is abolished – we are calling it ‘Grocery Bag’ now. So, you have the grocery bag and then you also have the food assistance under the COVID emergency regulations. Now, we want to help the people who need it most. But clearly as a new administration we have to make a little bit of review. It won’t stop right now but clearly the policy decisions going forward will have to be made by cabinet and I will take my instruction from cabinet. But I can speak to say that we have paused to make certain reviews as to the suppliers, the distributors and the recipients. And it is not sustainable in the long run because we are talking about loan funding but we will do our best to be as fair as we possibly can keeping in mind the political mandate. But we won’t be snatching away food from the people who continue to have the need. Just give us a little change to have our feet on the ground.”


“Minister, any idea how long that pause will be?”

Dolores Balderamos Garcia

“It will be a couple of days, dear, let me assure you. It is not going to be two weeks, three weeks. Christmas the come. They say Krismus the come and I wah mi dandan.”

…and while Minister Balderamos Garcia said it would be just a few days until the program resumed – the pause was for three weeks. Now, from what we gathered on the ground today, workers couldn’t say if this is the official resumption of the ‘Grocery Bag’ distribution. I was told that the proprietor of outlet on Oleander Street reported they needed to get the items out of the store and into the homes because the groceries had already been paid for and there was a also a concern about the spoilage of perishable items. But whether today’s distribution on Oleander Street signals a continuation of the program or not – the recipients were grateful for the supplies. A recipient of the program who wished to remain anonymous tells us why this means a lot for her family and others in her neighbourhood.

Voice of: Resident

“Miss, this very helpful. This program is a very good program for poor people, especially people weh have lotta children it benefits them because fi you go and buy them deh dah store you know how much money you wah pay fi go buy deh? So, it is very helpful – every two weeks you get your pantry and when that one the look fi done it’s because dah one wahdeh right deh fi you get so it is very helpful.”

Andrea Polanco

“Talk to me about that pause in the program – how you mi di the manage?”

Voice of Resident:

“Listen to me, inna wah way we understand it. Some people tek it different but inna a way remember dah from one government to a next government and when you the change overyuh have to go on a pause and dah neva too long of a pause – dah like three weeks yuh understand?”

Many of the recipients on the ground told us that these groceries will go a long way for them. The two recipients we spoke with shared more about the groceries they received and their plans for them.

Bernadine Rivers

“Maybe wah nice baked chicken and some potato salad – something nice mek the lee kids deh could eat.”

Andrea Polanco

“Suh yuh think deh wah excited as well?”

Bernadine Rivers

“Very excited! [Laughs] And who start it up or whatever for today, God bless them very much.”

Andrea Polanco

What all unu get today?”

Voice of: Resident

“Well, the usual we usually get – the rice, the beans, sugar, flour, baking powder, chicken, shortening, choco. Yuh lee onion, potato, carrots, cabbage.”

Andrea Polanco

“Suh you have enough to make a proper meal?”

Voice of: Resident

“Definite with that chicken everything go good – and even when they mi neva the give chicken first it mi helpful because when it come to weekend now all you have to provide dah the chicken and now that they di the give the chicken mek it betta!”

We reached out the Minister and C.E.O. of the Ministry of Human Development, but our requests for interviews have gone unanswered.

Channel 5

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