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The Politics Of Feeding The Hungry, Police K-9 Investigation, Remembering Pulse

People gather at a Feeding South Florida event with boxes and supplies on a table
Caitie Switalski

Two non-profits in South Florida, both focused on food insecurity, are battling for federal dollars. A new Sun Sentinel investigation looks into how police K-9s are used for arrest. Plus, healing continues five years after the Pulse shooting.

On this Thursday, June 10, episode of Sundial

The Politics Of Feeding The Hungry

There’s a fight over who will feed tens of thousands of the food insecure.

Feeding South Florida, based in Pembroke Park, has been responsible for feeding families in need in Broward and Palm Beach counties. FarmShare, based in Homestead, handles food distribution in Miami-Dade County.

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The state’s agriculture department recently awarded a new contract for the federally-funded Emergency Food Assistance Program and FarmShare will now be responsible for all three counties.

Independent reviewers with the state’s department were responsible for scoring both organizations. They won the contract by a narrow margin.

“They need a third-party review here,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She claims there were mathematical errors and inconsistencies in the scoring.

There’s also been an outcry, from Broward County commissioners who argue Feeding South Florida is the only group capable of handling the job.

“In this particular case, I don't think the congressman has all the information,” said Steve Shelley, the CEO of FarmShare and Homestead council member. “I'd be very surprised if those scores would be changed or that they would find anything that they haven't found already through this whole process.”

He maintains that FarmShare has all of the resources available to serve.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has said she plans to review her agency’s decision to grant the contract to FarmShare.

The Politics Of Feeding The Hungry
A box of food from Feeding South Florida that was distributed Nov. 18, 2020 at San Lázaro Catholic Church in Hialeah. About 900 people lined up for the food.

Police K-9 Investigation

A new Sun Sentinel investigation looks into how Broward County law enforcement uses K-9 dogs in arrests.

They found that over the past 17 months, 84% of the people bitten were Black.

Racial disparities in the criminal justice system are too common — but this overwhelming majority far exceeds both the percentage of Black residents living in the area and percentage of Black arrests.

In one out of five K-9 bites, the charges were downgraded to misdemeanors or dropped entirely and in one out of 10 cases, the only charge was resisting the officer or the dog, according to the Sun Sentinel.

“We just found an awful lot of cases of what I think most people would consider a petty crime or no crime at all or, you know, jiggling the door of a locked car and or just running [from police],” said Sun Sentinel investigative reporter Brittany Wallman.

The law enforcement agencies told the Sun Sentinel that they met the industry norms, which calls for the number of people bitten to be less than 30% of the total cases in which dogs are used.

“There are moments when the use of the dog and the dog's jaws seem rational and reasonable,” said Sun Sentinel investigative reporter Mario Ariza. “This wasn't necessarily the case for the vast majority of the dog bites.”

Police K-9 Investigation
Rex, a retired K-9 dog, is in the custody of Animal Services as officials in Albuquerque, N.M., decide what to do with him.

Remembering Pulse

This Saturday is a difficult one for queer communities and their allies across Florida.

It marks five years since 49 lives were taken in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, one of the largest mass shootings in our nation’s history.

“We have to face two realities. We have to recognize and be prideful for who we are, but also take time to remember the tragedy that took place during Pride Month as well. So it's kind of like that double edged sword of celebration but also a remembrance," said Joel Junior Morales, who is the Director of Operations for the LGBTQ Center in Orlando.

He’s been working with these communities over the past five years to ensure they receive the services they need.

Remembering Pulse

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.