Youth Nonprofits to Address Food Insecurity Amidst Pandemic
By Mike Fontus
With the recent expiration of the federal government’s $600 per week unemployment benefits, many local residents are left without a job and wondering what’s next. But one local nonprofit has stepped in to provide 700 hot meals on Friday.
Through a collaboration with two youth-focused organizations, KOP Mentoring Network will give the meals to churches and feeding organizations from 10 to 11 a.m. in the south parking lot at Cason United Methodist Church, 324 N. Swinton Ave.
“We are just trying to make sure that these families who lost their unemployment bonus have food on their tables,” said C. Ron Allen, CEO of the Delray Beach-based KOP Mentoring Network. “This pandemic has really brought to the forefront some of the big gaps that we have in all of our community, and food security is certainly one of them. So, providing food for these families is vital to the health of our community.”
KOPMN partnered with North Miami-based Joshua’s Heart Foundation and FLIPANY to make the giveaway possible. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth-run organization operated pantries and a warehouse in North Miami, but pivoted after, said Tobi Ash, the organization’s program director.
“We used to operate normal pantries, which is where people made reservations for what they wanted, but because of the pandemic we are bringing the food to them through what we call mobile pantries,” Ash said.
By not having to prepare their own meals, people will now have time to deal with other necessities, Ash added.
FLIPANY (Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth) has been empowering South Florida youth and their families through nutrition and fitness programming for the past 15 years. The organization’s volunteer chefs prepared the meals.
In its 15th year, Joshua’s Heart has recruited 50,000 volunteers and provided more than two million pounds of food to families, Ash said. Since March, they have been serving 150 needy families twice a week.
Hunger is a persistent problem in the United States, impacting more than 37 million people in 2018, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture.
Households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity, according to Feeding America, the country’s largest network of food banks.
Food-insecure households often rely on local food banks and other hunger relief organizations for support.
Since March, KOPMN has been doing its part to put a dent in the food insecurity.
The organization partnered with EJS Project and provided up to 400 cooked meals on Fridays over about three months.
On Wednesdays, volunteers passed out fresh fruit, produce, vegetables, meat eggs and cheese to more than 600 people at Catherine Strong Park.
And every Tuesday and Thursdays, a cadre of volunteers deliver boxes of frozen meat, dairy products, starch and fresh fruit and produce to residents across the city.
“We are seeing firsthand that the traditional safety nets, such as school feeding programs, city services and food banks are struggling to meet basic needs,” Allen said. “So, the three organizations that serve youth are doing our part to help our fellow residents get through this time, share our hope and positivity, and make sure everyone has access to fresh and healthy food.”