Thousands at Food for Florida event in Lakeland

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Some camped out overnight, others woke up well before the sun came up. By the time Lakeland’s Food For Florida site officially opened its doors Saturday morning, thousands were already lined up outside the RP Funding Center.

The demand for the one-time food assistance program was so high that many more were turned away just five hours after the site opened its doors. By noon, Lakeland police and DCF officials were forced to cut off the line as thousands of applicants stretched around the site and many more waited in their cars outside.

“Coming in at three in the morning and then the line was long already, you’re thinking I’m going to get there early it’s going to be good, but it’s been a long day,” said Ally Vargas, who waited nearly eight hours to get in.

Officials say, though the line was cut off early, the site remained open for several hours so workers could process the thousands already waiting in line.

“What we’re seeing in Lakeland today is people from different counties coming up to the site. We have our friends from Hillsborough County and Pinellas County, where the sites have already closed, who were unable to make it to those sites to get processed,” explained Department of Children and Families official Kristi Gray.

Lakeland’s site will re-open Sunday at 7 a.m.

Polk County's Food For Florida site will be open through Tuesday. Applicants should bring a photo ID and should also be prepared to potentially encounter long lines. Comfortable clothing and shoes are highly recommended. To cut down on wait time, pre-register online at

Polk County's is not the only Food For Florida site currently open in the Bay Area. See below for a list of site locations and times.

October 13 - 17
8201 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota

October 14-18
RP Funding Building, 701 W. Lime Street, Lakeland

October 14 - 16
Hardee Agri-Civic Center, 515 Civic Center Drive, Wauchula

October 14 - 16
Bert J. Jarvis Agri-Civic Center, 4509 George Blvd., Sebring

October 15 - 17
Desoto Square Mall, 303 301 Blvd. W,. Bradenton

October 22 - 25
3032 Collier Parkway, Land O'Lakes

October 28 - 30
Location to be determined

October 20 - 21
Location to be determined

Site locations have already come and gone in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties.

DCF says lines may close prior to 6 p.m., based on time to process those already in line.