People start lining up at 1 a.m. in Lakeland for food assistance after Irma

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — After waiting in line for hours on Saturday and calling it quits, families in Polk County returned early Sunday morning to apply for food assistance following Hurricane Irma.

At 6 a.m., people were already lining up outside the RP Funding Center in Lakeland, where the Department of Children and Families and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented the Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program.

Thousands turned out Saturday for the first day of the program in Polk County. Police and the DCF eventually had to turn people away from getting in line for safety reasons.

Many of the people who were turned away or called it quits from waiting so long returned early Sunday morning, some as early as 1 a.m.

Lines on day two were much more structured than the ones on day one, with workers outside telling people where to go.

They’re all looking to sign up for assistance following Hurricane Irma.

The program will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day until Wednesday at 701 West Lime Street.

  • 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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