Hearts United: FFTP Volunteers Pack More Than 1,500 Meal Kits for Families in Need
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Dec. 7, 2022) With festive music and décor in the background, Food For The Poor (FFTP) volunteers on Saturday packed 1,518 holiday food kits for impoverished families in the Caribbean and Latin America.
More than 100 volunteers participated in the event, a pilot project for a new program in development at FFTP. The day began with a welcome from Jisabelle Garcia-Pedroso, FFTP Director of Programs and Operations.
“We are going to fill this room with the spirit of the season – the spirit of giving,” Garcia-Pedroso said. “Today is extra special because you are the first to help us develop a new kit-packing program at Food For The Poor. With your help, we will take this program throughout the United States to churches, businesses, schools, and communities and connect them to the people we serve in the Caribbean and Latin America.”
Once the pilot project is fine-tuned with feedback from volunteers and staff, groups will be able to host their own packing event using boxes, marketing materials and packing instructions provided by FFTP. The charity will pick up the kits after they are packed and ship them to beneficiaries.
Volunteers, who worked one of two 90-minute shifts throughout the morning, received instructions on sorting and arranging the food items in each kit. All were eager to participate and happy to share their time in a meaningful activity.
“We wanted to find something to do for the holidays to help in the season of giving,” said Dr. Andrea Santo, who was joined by her 17-year-old daughter, Samantha, and members of her team at Lakeview Dental of Coral Springs. “This was the perfect opportunity for us to come and participate.”
Shelley Hew, of Sunrise, also participated with her daughter, Monique Ashley, and family friends, Sandy Scott and her 18-year-old daughter, Lian.
“It’s so good to give back,” Hew said. “You know, God is such a good being. He has done so much for me in my lifetime that I have to share. That’s why I wanted to come out today.”
The pilot project is another avenue through which FFTP is helping people who are struggling with food insecurity due to disasters or other extreme conditions.
“This will allow us to provide immediate relief while Food For The Poor continues to develop programs to lift people out of poverty through agricultural programs and other projects that provide food and a sustainable income,” Garcia-Pedroso said. “We want to get food to people as quickly as possible through projects like this, while also working on long-term solutions to extreme poverty.”
The event also included a visit from Oliver Mair, Consul General of Jamaica based in Miami, who praised FFTP for its efforts to provide support for impoverished families.
“It was important for us to come out and lend a hand,” said Mair, who serves the Southeastern United States. “We appreciate all of the efforts by Food For The Poor to provide for the less fortunate, and not just in Jamaica but for the other islands and countries you serve, especially during Christmas.”
In preparation for the project, FFTP worked with its in-country partners in the Caribbean and Latin America to determine what foods would be most appropriate to include in the kits. From there, the charity developed a list of foods in specific sizes and quantities that will fit securely in the kits and clear customs without difficulty.
Each of the kits, which will provide enough food to feed an average family of four for one week, contains:
- Vegetable oil, one 48-ounce bottle
- Corn meal, one 24-ounce bag
- Parboiled rice, one 5-pound bag
- Elbow pasta, one 16-ounce bag
- Tuna, four 5-ounce cans
- Red beans, four 15.5-ounce cans
- Mixed vegetables, two 15-ounce cans
- Peaches, two 14- to 15-ounce cans
As part of the project, FFTP received donations of mixed vegetables from Key Food. In addition, longtime FFTP partner Feed My Starving Children provided MannaPacks, a vitamin-and-mineral fortified rice meal, as a substitute for parboiled rice in some of the kits.
Handwritten notes of love and encouragement penned by volunteers were the final item added to the kits before they were sealed and prepared for shipping.
Saturday’s event was the fourth and final Hearts United Community Day of the year, wrapping up a successful volunteer recruitment campaign. The charity began hosting the events in April to bring together schools, churches, businesses and like-minded individuals who wanted to make a hands-on contribution to impoverished families.
“We are thrilled with the turnout for this event and for each of the Hearts United events that we’ve had since April,” said Pennie Stagnitta, FFTP Volunteer Program Coordinator. “Our volunteers are amazing. Just as the name of our program implies, they united in a common cause today to make the holidays brighter for families facing extreme poverty.”
For Loraine Lewis and her family, the event offered another opportunity for their organization, the Madge Lewis Scholarship Foundation, to support those in need.
“We’re here today to volunteer because this is our mantra – ‘we care, and we share’ – that’s what my mom taught us to do when we were growing up,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize that a little goes a long way – and helping organizations such as Food For The Poor is so important.”
Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry children and families living in poverty primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, water, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for vulnerable children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.