SARASOTA, Fla. (WTSP) – Hundreds of people were up before the sun and in line outside the Sarasota Square mall on Friday to receive Hurricane Irma food relief offered by the Department of Children and Families through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Because thousands of people lost food after the storm due to massive power outages, DCF is distributing temporary food benefits to families as part of the Food for Florida program. Assistance centers have been set up all over the area, and have received an overwhelming number of applicants.

Vanessa Mitchell said she had to throw away all her food after the storm, and because her money is budgeted very tightly, she had to use her bill money for groceries.

“I work, but money is just enough to make ends meet,” said Mitchell. “I can't go to the grocery store. And when I had to throw away food, that really messed me up. So, [the assistance] is really going help me a lot, and I thank God for it.”

To be eligible for the program, applicants must live in the area being served, and must not currently receive benefits from the food stamp program. They must also bring a government-issued ID to the relief center. The Sarasota center is open until 6 p.m. on Friday, and will help people through Oct. 17.

DCF spokesperson Natalie Harrell said applicants are also encouraged to preregister online to avoid long wait times. She encourages people looking for assistance to arrive to the center as early as possible, as lines could close before 6 p.m., depending on how many people show up to be served.

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Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at