September 19, 2020
The process of feeding its “fellow brothers and sisters” remains a major priority for the Government of the Bahamas, especially during this period of COVID-19, Minister of Social Services and Urban Development, the Hon. Frankie A. Campbell, said Thursday.
Minister Campbell said the Government’s focus has been on ensuring that its citizens throughout the Commonwealth can have the assurance that: “No matter where you may be during this storm, this pandemic, that you and your families have the protection of our social safety net, social assistance and a measure of food security.”
The measures implemented to address citizens’ needs as a result of the Pandemic, do not include the daily efforts undertaken by the Ministry and the Department of Social Services to address the needs of their regular clients, those that would have sought assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, or those who walk into Community Support Services Centres throughout the Commonwealth seeking Emergency Food Assistance.
“We wish to advise that persons in need of food assistance can apply to the Department of Social Services as well as the various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide food assistance to the most vulnerable. It should be noted, however, that persons are not intended to receive from both entities.”
Delivering the Ministry’s Report to the Nation during a televised address, Minister Campbell gave a detailed accounting of the initiatives undertaken by the Ministry, its Departments and Divisions and numerous Units, in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic throughout The Bahamas.
Minister Campbell began by saying that the Ministry has disbursed approximately $469,000 in Special Grants due to the economic fallout of Covid-19, through the Department of Social Services (DOSS). The special grants were made to various government and non-government organizations, residential facilities for seniors and children, in addition to NGOs that provide food assistance to the most vulnerable in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
“Partnerships are essential to extend the reach of services and the continuation and effective task of nation building,” Minister Campbell said.
Minister Campbell said additionally, the Disability Affairs Division, Department of Social Services, began issuing Emergency Food Assistance coupons directly from the Division to persons with disabilities.
From March to the present, 179 persons have been assisted, totaling $10,230. Disability Allowance payments to 81 children continued at a cost of $330,000.
Minister Campbell reported that a COVID-19 Assistance Programme was put in place for persons in the hospitality industry who were placed on reduced work weeks in March. Almost 2300 persons (2,293 persons) were assisted with $270,000 having been expended.
In keeping with assistance provided in New Providence, 16 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in fourteen 14 Family Island districts received a total of $31,000 dollars to assist with feeding programs that were similar to those initiated in New Providence by The Bahamas Feeding Network.
Minister Campbell said as initiatives are not New Providence-centric, the Family Island Division of the Department of Social Services has been, and continues to be, actively involved in the delivery of all programmes provided by the Department.
He said the creation of the digital application and the increase in some of the benefits in those islands where the tourism industry was more vibrant but were negatively impacted by COVID, have both had positive impacts.
Minister Campbell said between the period of April and August 2020, assistance was provided to 5,286 persons totaling $843,639.44.
Minister Campbell reported that there was a steady increase in requests for assistance in Grand Bahama due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and its impact on the island’s economy. He said there was also an increased demand for rental assistance and a steady increase for financial assistance for utilities during the period of March-August, 2020, as a result of persons being furloughed, or in some instances, terminated due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.
He said there was a decline in requests for Emergency Food Assistance during the months of July and August 2020, as many of the Department’s clients utilized the ‘Feed Grand Bahama’ online initiative offered by The Bahamas Government in response to the pandemic. Almost 5,000 persons (4,850) benefitted from Emergency Food Assistance at a cost of $437,713.
Minister Campbell said Urban Renewal has also been a key stakeholder, a mobile force, in the time of pandemic, ensuring that the elderly aren’t forgotten; that the homeless, some of whom have been exploited by others through social media and ignored, receive rations, receive care.
The Social Services Minister said due to restrictions and protocols put in place in the workforce as a result of COVID-19, the team at Urban Renewal has had to adapt by adopting alternate and innovative means in facilitating the public.
This included the curbside distribution of 600 grocery bags in April and May to Senior Citizens and other residents in need in New Providence, and another 300 bags that were distributed in Grand Bahama. Grocery Vouchers were also supplied for those in need on the Urban Renewal Family Island locations of Abaco, Crooked Island, Long Island, Andros, Cat Island, Exuma and Eleuthera.
Urban Renewal also hosted “A Taste of Love” Breakfast Distribution at its ten Urban Renewal Centres in New Providence on June 10, during which more than 2,000 persons (200 per Centre) were provided with a hot, cooked, breakfast.
As a replacement for the Annual Urban Renewal Summer Camp, the Commission launched its Lunch Programme in New Providence on Monday, September 7. The Programme provides hot lunches for the children of 10 Urban Renewal communities in New Providence and is scheduled to end September 25, 2020. “Sister Programmes” will be hosted in Grand Bahama for the children attached to its communities. Urban Renewal officials project that the lunch needs of “at least” 1600 children a day is expected to be met in New Providence, Grand Bahama and Bimini -- 1000 in Nassau, 500 in Grand Bahama, and 100 in Bimini.
Minister Campbell said to complement the yeoman’s work that was already being done to provide food for its citizens in need through the Department of Social Services and the Urban Renewal Commission and its partners, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis, established the National Food Distribution Task Force as one of the immediate responses to addressing the basic food assistance needs to the citizens and residents of The Bahamas due to the widespread impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The NFDTF timeframe was to operate from the last week in May to the end of August 2020.
The government has, to date, provided funds in the amount of more than $13 million (thirteen million, two hundred and twenty-five thousand, three hundred and forty-one dollars to be exact) to the Programme. The NFDTF has distributed food parcels and vouchers to approximately 55,078 households throughout The Bahamas up to September 12, 2020.
“The need for continued food assistance through the Task Force is still of paramount importance and as such, the Government of The Bahamas has committed to the continued partnership to the end of October 3, 2020,” Minister Campbell said.
Headed by Mrs. Susan Larson, Chairperson, the Task Force encompasses the partnership of the following Non-government Organizations: Bahamas Feeding Network, Bahamas Red Cross, Lend a Hand Bahamas, Hands for Hunger (New Providence), National Food Committee (Grand Bahama), Idea Relief (Abaco), and One Eleuthera Foundation (Eleuthera).
“I take this opportunity on behalf of the Government of The Bahamas to extend appreciation to Chairman Larson, the zone leaders of the Task Force, and their support teams for the herculean work they have done,” Minister Campbell said.
“Mother Theresa, the child of compassionate parents, advocate, founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and later considered one of the 20th Century's greatest humanitarians, and canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016, said: “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in,” Minister Campbell added.
By Matt Maura