Michelle Rodriguez left Camping World Stadium Wednesday clutching two electronic benefit cards worth $706 to replace the food she lost during Hurricane Irma.
She is one of 86,000 Orange County residents that have been helped since Saturday in the Food for Florida recovery effort.
Rodriguez raised her cards to the air and said, “Thank you Jesus,” as she left the stadium. The single mother of a 9-year-old son said she will use the money to restock her pantry and refrigerator.
Rodriguez, an administrative supervisor for a collection agency, lost power for five days after the storm.
“I’m extremely grateful,” she said.
The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is implementing the food assistance program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has processed 700,000 applications statewide and given out more than $1 billion in federal aid since the hurricane hit, said William D’Aiuto, DCF’s regional director.
People started lining up around the stadium before dawn and more than 600 DCF workers began processing paperwork at 6:20 a.m.
David Ocasio, spokesman for DCF’s Central Region, said 20,000 people filed through the stadium Wednesday, the final day of the program in Orange County. He said they stopped allowing people to enter the line at 5 p.m.
Food for Florida also has a Seminole County site in Casselberry. A Food for Florida site in Marion County will be the last to offer assistance for the Central Florida region starting on Oct. 31.
The Orlando site is one of 39 Food for Florida locations in 48 Florida counties.
Vanita Dieujuste waited two and a half hours in line for $388 in benefits. Dieujuste, who works at Popeyes Fried Chicken in Apopka, said her husband died and she lives by herself now and needs the extra money.
Evenlyn Sanchez, who lives on a disability check, said she needed the money to replace groceries she lost during the five days her power was out.
“I’ll use the money to buy meat, milk, juice, and ice cream for my grandchildren,” she said.