100,000 food meals bless Florida’s needy residents

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MIAMI— For Dairis Pulido, the meal kit that arrived over the weekend with healthy snacks and food was a reminder of God’s blessings in times of crisis.

The food kit “was a great surprise,” Pulido said. “With a teenage boy and girl at home full time, the pantry needs supplies. They are hungry all the time,” she said.

Coronavirus Response, Food Donations,“That box made me smile. It is a tangible example of the love of God and of my brothers in the faith, and His provision even during a pandemic,” she added.

The meal kit was among thousands delivered by semi-truck Thursday, April 23 to a storage warehouse in Doral. Once it arrived, volunteers unloaded 24 pallets of boxes filled with non-perishable items designed to supplement an individual’s diet for several days.

The boxes were available for needy families through a partnership between the Florida Baptist Convention and the State of Florida, which sent multiple semi-trucks each loaded with 3,450 boxes of meal kits for Florida Baptist churches to deliver in their communities. The number of hungry persons in the state has increased exponentially as the economy suffered during COVID-19.

By the end of the week, 92,800 boxes were distributed across the state by 82 Florida Baptist churches. Another 7,200 food boxes were dispersed during the last week of April to churches across North Florida—from Lake City to Pensacola.

Each box contained a variety of more than 35 items including crackers, applesauce, cereal, canned beans, sausages, packaged chicken and more.

“This is a supplemental amount of food for people in addition to other assistance they may have already received,” said Al Fernandez, southeast regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention. “It’s a nice addition to what they already have.”

Coronavirus Response, Food Donations,Jose Garcia, pastor of New Hope Church in Allapattah, owns the Doral warehouse where the boxes of food arrived. His church operates a food pantry ministry for the needy in their neighborhood.

The day after the boxes arrived in South Florida, volunteers from New Hope came to the warehouse to pack bags with food received through Feeding South Florida. The boxes donated by the state helped to round out the food portions available to each family.

“Churches with ongoing food ministries have been very thankful for the boxes,” said Marc Johnston, Florida Baptists’ community ministries catalyst. Many of their pantries have been depleted and with the number of hungry persons increasing, their sources for food have been decreasing. Some churches are using the contents to provide backpack lunches for out of school children.

Pura Peña, a member of Iglesia Bautista Northside in Hialeah who recently celebrated her 88th birthday, was pleased to receive the box of food. “This is such a nice gesture,” she said after receiving it, adding that she hoped to share the food with her grandchildren and neighbors.

Iglesia Real in Hollywood sent a truck to collect 300 boxes to distribute to their church family and inner-city community. While the church does not have a food ministry, Pastor Martin Vargas wanted to provide the boxes to the hungry in his church and community. “These are items that someone who is pressed financially would not spend money on,” said the pastor.

Coronavirus Response, Feeding Ministry, Iglesia RealGenerosity attracts generosity, said Vargas, adding that a local grocer donated melons after hearing about the church’s drive-thru food distribution. That Saturday a team of 14 church volunteers and Hollywood mayor Josh Levy placed the food boxes and melons in the trunks of cars driving through the church parking lot.

In just over an hour all the food had been distributed.

Reflecting on the day, Mayor Levy commented, “Beautiful day and beautiful spirit. Thank you, Pastor Vargas for helping to shine a bright light on the spirit of the city.”

Across the state, the boxes of food were shared by Florida Baptist churches.

–In Lakeland, Mt. Tabor Baptist church donated the boxes to homeless families throughout Polk County.

–In Central Florida, 4,800 food boxes were given to churches with ongoing food pantries ministering to the needy in Tampa Bay. “Everyone is doing their part in the coronavirus pandemic,” said Jeffery Singletary, central Florida catalyst.

–In St. John and Putnam counties, Iglesia Anastasia joined 25 other churches to distribute the food boxes and groceries to families in their communities. “Thank you all for your time, generosity and sharing Christ’s love,” read a message on the church’s Facebook page.

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