Feeding South Florida & Marlins Bring Nutrition Education to Belle Glade

By Melissa Beltz
The Sun

Updated October 10, 2014 at 12:11PM
BELLE GLADE — The Bill Bailey Community Center was transformed this past Monday, Sept. 6 into a makeshift farmers market, as roughly 300 families poured in to collect hundreds of bags of food being distributed by three Palm Beach County nonprofit organizations. Fresh tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bananas, grapes and salad mix adorned the long tables that lined the center’s floor, turning the dimly lit gymnasium into a temporary and colorful grocery store.

The Miami Marlins Foundation teamed up with Feeding South Florida and the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County to distribute hundreds of pounds of perishable and non-perishable food items picked up from C&S Wholesale, Publix and BJ’s.

Alfredo Mesa, vice president and executive director of the Marlins Foundation, called the partnership between the three organizations a “trifecta,” as Feeding South Florida is one of the Marlins Foundation’s charity partners, while the Boys and Girls Club is a Major League Baseball charity of choice, as well as one of Feeding South Florida’s own charity partners.

The three organizations were working together to make healthy foods available to families in the Glades no matter their budget, as well as making sure those families knew what exactly good nutrition means.

The fresh fruits, vegetables and frozen meat set out next to the canned and packaged foods were an example of the healthy foods that families of the Boys and Girls Club will learn about in a new nutrition program being launched by Feeding South Florida and the Marlins Foundation.

“We had a goal to make sure 80 percent of the food was perishable. Some of this food was picked up on our way in,” said Sari Vatske, vice president of community relations for Feeding South Florida. “It’s estimated that 500 million pounds of produce goes to waste in Florida each year. To get it before it goes to waste and give to our families is pretty incredible.”

Roscio Ortega, a working mother from Belle Glade, was at the community center to pick up one of the bags of food for her family.

“[The food distribution] is important because a lot of parents out there are from single-family homes and the kids look forward to it,” said Ortega. Ortega’s children attend Gove Elementary School and are members of the Boys and Girls Club. The club not only gives her children the opportunity to play sports, do arts and crafts and participate in field trips, but it gives Ortega the flexibility to work during the day and know her children are safe until her workday ends. “It’s a big help. They’re very flexible,” she said.

The distribution was made complete when the Marlins Mascot Billy showed up to entertain the crowd.

Staff writer Melissa Beltz can be reached at 863-983-9148 or mbeltz@newszap.com.

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