In North Miami, nearly 1 in 4 residents live in poverty. A new food pantry will feed them

Feeding South Florida opened its first city pantry last month in North Miami, providing food for the city’s 62,000 residents.

The City of North Miami dedicated space for the pantry in the Sunkist Grove Community Center, 12500 NW 13th Ave.

The pantry will be open from 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.- 4:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The pantry requires people to make appointments by emailing or calling 954-518-1857.

The State of Florida donated $50,000, and the Florida Blue Foundation awarded a $400,000 grant over the course of two years to get the pantry up and running. It’s stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins such as poultry and beans, dairy and canned goods.

Feeding South Florida, a non-profit working to end hunger in South Florida, serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe counties.

The pantry receives its food from farmers, government agencies, schools, places of worship and other organizations.

Nearly 1 in 4 residents in North Miami live in poverty, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Feeding South Florida chose North Miami based on its “gap analysis” evaluation process, which analyzes census data to create areas of need. The analysis takes into account several factors, including the percentage of students who qualify for the National Free and Reduced Lunch Program, the availability of fresh, healthy food and household income.

“We are hopeful that it will not only reduce the overall food budget shortfall, but it will also help create a healthier North Miami with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein items,” said Sari Vatske, executive vice president of Feeding South Florida.

North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime holds up a box of cereal in the new food pantry in North Miami that Feeding South Florida recently opened.

Feeding South Florida plans to add additional services, like SNAP application assistance, nutrition education and resume writing.

“The idea is that this is meant to be a resource center for the community that can help transition families from dependency to self-sufficiency,” Vatske said. “We’re invested in this location and we look forward to being able to add services and classes at the Sunkist Grove Community Center.”

The pantry would not be possible without Florida Blue Foundation’s grant. The Foundation funds 90 to 100 Miami-area organizations every year.

“We’ve been investing in local communities for a very long time, but the renewed interest of the Foundation is not only to do things that have a day-to-day impact, but also things that are more impactful in the community, that are related to some of the social determinants of health,” said Penny Shaffer, the Florida Blue market president for South Florida.

The Florida Blue Foundation plans to continue to work with Feeding South Florida in the future.

“We are already working with them on other programs, above and beyond the North Miami pantry. Particularly, we as healthcare leaders, are looking at the social determinants of health, food security being one of the top priorities,” Shaffer said.

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