North St John Meals Pantry “Nice Assist” to Residents
Kevin Monterola tries to stretch his food every month. He works part time as a concert lighting technician and when his gigs dry up one of the things that succeeds is his budget on food.
Monterola, 53, is eligible for SNAP benefits, but said the amount he receives won’t be enough for a month’s worth of groceries.
He recently found out about the NoMi Food Market, a free pantry for North St John residents down the street from his home. He searched the hallways in a small common room, gathering cereal, canned pea soup, frozen pork loin, and nutri-grain bars.
“It was tough,” said Monterola. “The increases I got from my job – the increase in the cost of living – don’t match your cost of living.”
The Pantry is a partnership between the City of North St John and Feeding South Florida. The city provides the space in the Sunkist Grove Community Center and supports the employees through the department for social services. Feeding South Florida leverages its partnership with major grocery stores to offer a wide range of high quality groceries and hygiene products. The pantry also provides assistance for those needing to request grocery services.
Nine percent of the people living in St John-Dade, about 242,000 people, are food unsafe, which means they don’t know where their next meal will be from, according to Feeding South Florida.
Since opening two months ago, the North St John pantry has seen an increase in 50-year-olds signing up for its services.
“Our older adults are the ones who have the most difficulty accessing these foods and foods in the amounts they need to support themselves,” said Paco Vélez, CEO of Feeding South Florida.
The classic model of distributing bulk food in parks and public spaces is not efficient or consistent, Vélez said, especially for families with children and seniors.
Waiting in long lines to pick up a prepackaged box doesn’t necessarily give thoughtful consideration to the family who need the food, he said. For example, food allergies, special dietary needs, or whether the person likes the item.
“I know I’m not a fan of wheat schnitzel, but I will definitely be taking the Honey Nut Cheerios every day of the week,” said Vélez.
And some foods like dairy, produce, and meat are hard to come by at free food distribution points because they need to be refrigerated.
The North St John pantry has two large refrigerators. One is stocked with organic eggs, cheese, various salads and vegetables, the other with different cuts of meat – pork, beef and chicken. The offers change constantly depending on the donation.
Credit Nadege Green / WLRN News
Carrian Bowen-Antoine helps Lenny Cabrera on his next appointment to gain access to the NoMi Food Market pantry.
North St John residents can initially sign up monthly to gain access to the pantry. However, the market plans to make appointments available on a weekly basis.
This is the first time Feeding South Florida has partnered with a community to create a neighborhood pantry. The organization hopes to replicate this model in other communities.
The Florida Blue Foundation granted a $ 400,000 grant to keep the pantry operational for two years.
Carrian Bowen-Antoine runs the daily operations at the NoMi Food Market. She says most pantry users see it as a supplement to getting things they couldn’t afford at the grocery store.
“If you haven’t been able to buy an extra box of cereal or peanut butter, or get the fresh produce, this is where you can do it,” she said.
Some hygiene products such as toilet paper, diapers and tampons are also available.
80-year-old Lenny Cabrera visited the pantry for the second time in two months. He is retired and living on a fixed income of $ 1,000 a month.
“It’s a big help,” he said of the pantry as he picked up a bag of lentils and rice, frozen mashed potatoes, and some bread.
Before leaving, he made an appointment to come back next month.
When you go
NoMi food market
Sunkist Grove Community Center, 12500 NW 13th Ave.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
North St John residents only
To make an appointment: email [email protected] or call 954-518-1857.
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