Laid off Disney workers help feed families in need

Hospitality workers lined up more than a mile for free food in Kissimmee, Saturday morning.

“There's thousands and thousands of hotel and restaurant workers out of work, laid off, furloughed, with almost no income from the unemployment system, so people need food. It's very basic,” explained Jeremy Haicken, president of UNITE HERE Local 737, which represents many theme park and hospitality workers. 

Their weekly food drive has been going on since the pandemic layoffs started. Now they are working with the area's Teamsters Union, Local 385, to deliver the food.

“We have a lot of members in need. A lot of families in the community, a lot of our own members, HERE's members, it's important. It's important to take care of them in this time of need,” said Mike McElmury, Teamsters Local 385 Trustee.

Some of the laid-off workers, like Nick Caturano, were also volunteering to hand out the food boxes.

“Love your neighbor. Do unto others as you want done to yourself. So me and my wife have always been involved in helping people, in food banks and stuff like that. But this has been the perfect opportunity,” he said.

Each car that pulled up got more than ninety pounds of food. “It's an assortment of vegetables, meats, dairy. It's a lot of food, about 32 lbs of food per box. We're giving away three boxes per car,” Haicken said.

Volunteers, like Teamsters’ Member Walt Howard, said it felt good to feed these families in need. “There's nothing better than being able to help somebody.”

The teamsters local said about a third of their members had been laid off or furloughed. UNITE HERE 737 said half their members were still out of work.