Lines cut off outside Irma assistance site in Lakeland after massive turnout

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A massive turnout has forced officials to start cutting off lines outside a disaster assistance program site in Lakeland.

Because of the large turnout for the Food for Florida program, police and the Department of Children and Families stopped letting people get in line around noon.

A spokesperson for the DCF says the decision was made in an effort to ensure the safety of those in the community who are traveling to and from the site.

The department will still serve the people who are already in line. They will reassess the capacity for more citizens later this afternoon.

Thousands of Polk County families lined up outside the RP Funding Center in Lakeland starting early Saturday morning for the chance to sign up for assistance through the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program following Hurricane Irma.

“It is important, but there is just so much you need to do to get it. I am not sure if I am gonna get help, there are so many people here,” said Mable Jeffries.

Saturday was the first day of the program in Polk County. The site didn’t open until 7 a.m., but crowds were already forming around 6 a.m.

“I thought at least I could avoid some of the lines because it didn’t open until 7. But I got dropped off probably way up the street, and just started walking to avoid the parking,” said Alexandria Binion.

In other counties, people waited in line for hours in traffic trying to sign up.

The program will run from Saturday, October 14 through Wednesday, October 18 at the RP Funding Building at 701 West Lime Street in Lakeland. The site is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • People with last names A-F should show up 10/14
  • People with last names G-J should show up 10/15
  • People with last names K-O should show up 10/16
  • People with last names P-Z should show up 10/17
  • A make-up day will be held 10/18

Individuals must apply in person and bring government-issued identification. You can find a full list of what you should bring to apply by visiting this website.

These are the eligibility requirements:

  • Must not currently be receiving benefits through the regular Food Stamp Program
  • Must have been living in the disaster area at the time of the disaster
  • May be eligible if temporarily living outside of the disaster area but within the disaster site at the time of the disaster
  • Must have experienced at least one of the following adverse effects:
    • Damage to or destruction of the household’s home or self-employment business
    • Disaster-related expenses not expected to be reimbursed during the disaster period (e.g. food loss, home or business repairs, temporary shelter expenses, evacuation expenses, home/business protection, disaster-related personal injury including funeral expenses)
    • Lost or inaccessible income, including reduction or termination of income, or a delay in receipt of income for more than 15 days

READ: Full list of eligibility requirements

Individuals are encouraged to pre-register for assistance the day before visiting. Pre-registration is available on the Food for Florida website.

Organizers say if applying, be prepared for long lines. For more information, visit Food for Florida’s website. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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