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First Day Of School Tech Woes, USPS Delays, Medical Marijuana Edibles Approved, And Community Fridges In South Florida

Woman next to an open fridge stocked with food.
Miami Herald
Sherina Jones and a fully stocked refrigerator in front of the Roots Collective in Miami, Florida. Jones set up this community fridge to help the food insecure during the COVID-19 crisis.

Students and teachers have a rough start with virtual schooling. The U.S. post office is falling behind. Plus new medical marijuana products could cause business in the industry to soar. And, a novel idea for feeding people in need.

On this Monday, Aug. 31, episode of Sundial:

First Day Of School Tech Woes

Monday was the first day of school in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Since both districts have started with distance learning, both are using an online system. In Palm Beach County, the school district has spent millions of dollars to provide Chromebook laptops and Wifi hotspots to bridge some of the technology gaps for some of their 190,000 students.

But in both districts, there have been problems. Sometimes it was students who couldn’t log on, sometimes it was the teachers.

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“Everything that could’ve gone wrong, did. Everything. Nothing worked,” said the Miami Herald’s education reporter Colleen Wright. “This platform that the [Miami-Dade County] school district spent $15 million on, completely crashed.”

We spoke with Wright about the first day of school.

USPS Delivery Slowdown

If you’ve felt like your mail and online orders have taken longer than usual to arrive, you’re not imagining things.

Internal U.S. Postal Service data show that there has been an increase in delays around the country since late June. This coincides with the appointment of a new U.S. Postmaster General earlier that month. Louis DeJoy is a donor to President Trump's campaign and he’s been trusted to change and improve the country’s postal service.

Some of the changes he’s put forward include a reduction in overtime hours, a hiring freeze at senior levels and efforts to remove mail-sorting machines.

Earlier this month, DeJoy said the Postal Service would suspend any operational changes until after the 2020 election. But some say the damage is already done.

Recently, there was a delay at the mail distribution facility in Opa-locka.

“It was not a pretty picture and that’s not normal for us,” said Wanda Harris, the president of the American Postal Workers Union Miami. “The overtime is not the issue. It’s us servicing the customers, that’s what our concern is about because we move the mail and when we stop to move the mail, that’s the problem."

Even with these setbacks, Harris says she guarantees that mail-in ballots for the November election will arrive on time as long as people mail them on time.

We spoke with Harris about how the service is being affected by the new cost-cutting changes being implemented.

Medical Marijuana Edibles To Be Available Soon

Medical pot is big business in Florida.

Last year alone, it’s estimated that dispensaries raked in $500 million in sales and business has been increasing during the pandemic. A recent change by the Florida Department of Health could increase its popularity even more, as last Wednesday the department approved the sale of edible cannabis products.

Cannabis-infused chocolates, cookies, honey and even olive oil have been developed in other states.

“A former marijuana regulator told me that’s it’s the no-fun edible rule,” said Miami Herald reporter Samantha J. Gross about the new rules.

Some examples of the rules include no primary or bright colors and no resemblance to any commercially available candy in order to minimize attraction to children.

We spoke with Gross about the new products and the impact they'll have on the state's medical marijuana economy.

Community (FREE)DGE Helps Feed Hungry

Sherina Jones knows the struggle people are feeling during this pandemic.

The esthetician and mom from the Carol City neighborhood of Miami Gardens, would hear from friends and community members about the need to just get food on the table.

According to Feeding South Florida’s annual count, more than 700,000 people were food insecure in our region last year and the pandemic has exacerbated the problem.

Jones was inspired by a Youtube video she saw of a community fridge so she set one up outside of the Roots Collective in Liberty City. Jones restocks it every day so that families can find breakfast sandwiches, milk, and produce. People can take what they need or donate what they have.

“At a local food bank, I mean, they already have their crowd of normal people that’s coming and it’s already overcrowded so I just wanted to take a different avenue and a different approach with things,” said Jones.

We spoke with her about the Village (FREE)DGE: Miami Edition community fridge. They are taking donations through the CashApp account $villagepantry and through their GoFundMe site.

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.