MIM Fall 2019 Service Project by Jessica Horsham

Feeding South Florida 

Serving our communities and helping one another is not a feat that many people take the time to do, especially in bustling cities such as Miami. However, to really get to know a city and its diverse people, one must understand their needs and most pressing issues. One of South Florida’s largest issues is food insecurity, with about 11.8% of all South Floridian, 9.1% of Miami-Dade County, not knowing where their next meals will be coming from (Millon, 2018). In light of the meaning of this class and to further explore the people and needs of my community, I decided to volunteer at Feeding South Florida, a four-star charity, to help sort food and package meals for different groups across South Florida. As a food bank, the Feeding South Florida warehouse receives donations, in monetary funds as well as actual food, sorts through it, pack it up in separate boxes, and then distributes it to various organizations. Feeding South Florida is actually responsible for supplying over 258 nonprofits and last year alone supplied enough food for about 51.5 million meals via these organizations and their own organized distributions. 

For my first ever shift, I was informed that rather than simply sorting the food we would actually be packing about 30 pounds of food in boxes to deliver to an organization that focused on distributing the food to the elderly. Despite it being 8:00 AM in the morning and the hour of traffic, I was immediately excited and ready to go. We all got stationed on either side of a conveyor belt, responsible for a section of food to pack the box and it began to move fast once we all got into the groove of things. More interesting to me was the fact that the people volunteering alongside me, including some FIU alumni, an older gentleman whose weekly visits to the site help him feel complete in helping his community, a group from DHL, and a local up and coming singer wanting to figure out a way to give back. Each person, all from different neighborhoods throughout South Florida and Miami, are here to give back to their community—something that this class has taught me that not everyone feels drawn to or identifies with. Yet here, all of the people who showed up were here FOR their community, their neighbors and friends who they were drawn to help; this in itself is a unique and more meaningful identity than any superficial one. 

For the other shifts, we primarily focused on packing the general boxes of types of food, separating based on the items, and going through the donations to make sure they were still in good conditions. I was able to see the entire chain of command—from when the food initially arrives to when they are organized in specific boxes to be sent out to the community. My time here was an extremely humbling experience as it put into perspective all of the hard work and intentional planning needed to create these amazing projects. A simple donation to a food bank, while great, is simply not enough. The job is not done. If it is not sorted and packed properly, the donation almost means nothing because there is no means to guarantee where these donations will end up. Each shift, while there was a nice group of people, it simply was not enough. The warehouse is huge and has many time-sensitive jobs that need to be done each day. While it is amazing to donate food or money, it is equally as important to donate your time and effort to help create these boxes and make it happen. This type of service project is one that I believe all people should take a part in, it really brings into focus just how affected our very own backyards are affected with food insecurity—an issue that many people believe is solved simply because we live in the United States—as well as making a significant impact with a team in such a short time: 706 boxes packed, over 21,000 pounds, 12, 125 meals, and an even bigger community impact. 

Sources:

Millon, J. (2018, May 16). South Florida Continues to Face Hunger Challenges. Retrieved from https://feedingsouthflorida.org/south-florida-continues-to-face-hunger-challenges/.

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