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Paco Velez, President & CEO of Feeding South Florida, believes that hunger impacts every aspect of our
community, and although it’s an enormous issue, it’s solvable with the commitment of the community.
T E X T BY SA N DY L I N D S E Y
F eeding South Florida was founded in 1981 as the Daily
Bread Food Bank. At its inception, it solved two problems:
it aimed to make sure people didn’t go to bed hungry; and
it ensured good food didn’t go to waste. “Today, we still provide
immediate access to nutritious food whenever families need it,
not only at monthly or quarterly distributions,” says Paco Velez.
“We also lead hunger and poverty advocacy efforts through
our network of food banks as well as the 400 partner agencies
we serve. Additionally, we work to transform lives through
innovative programming and education.” They’ve also broken
ground on a new facility and programming that educates families
about nutrition, cooking, financial literacy, resume-building and
computer literacy, and will also provide job training to help clients
attain higher-paying jobs and self-sufficiency.
Velez started food banking in 2000 in San Antonio. “My first
food bank wasn’t nearly what it is today, which gave me the
opportunity to drive the mobile pantry truck, conduct agency site
visits and work my way up to Executive VP,” he says. “I expanded
the department from 8 people to 80 over the span of 12 years,
creating the first food bank call center, implementing a health and
wellness team, establishing a commercial kitchen with culinary
72 training, and providing meals to senior sites throughout San
Antonio and the surrounding area.”
Closer to home, Feeding South Florida received a call just
before the December school break from a high-ranking school
official in one of the counties they serve. “They were desperate to
get two school distributions conducted before the break started,”
he says. “At the end of the second distribution, the school official
shared the reason for the urgency: In visiting the schools, he came
across a student who was throwing a tantrum in the hallway. As
he approached the student and asked what was the matter, the
student responded by saying that he didn’t want to go on holiday
break because he wouldn’t have anything to eat.”
Feeding South Florida is now working toward having a school
pantry in-house available to families and accessible when needed.
“Hunger is all around us; it’s at our job sites, our places of worship,
our children’s schools…everywhere,” he says. “Although there are
784,110 individuals who don’t know how they’ll get their next meal,
including over 264,000 children, there are many more individuals
who can help make a difference through donations, volunteering or
lending their voice. Hunger is solvable and providing food is easy;
it’s poverty that’s complex.”; FeedingSouthFlorida.org.