South Florida is known as a place where the wealthy live and play, but activists say that image can hide some of the problems facing residents in poorer areas-- specifically the issue of hunger.
The organization Feeding South Florida raises awareness and food donations for people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The group serves the whole region from Palm Beach to Monroe County and it’s ramping up its efforts this month to get more people engaged in solving the problem.
Paco Veliz heads up Feeding South Florida and he says there are well over 900,000 people going hungry in the region, which is more than the national average.
“One in every five children in the United States is going hungry,” says Veliz. “In South Florida, one in every four is going hungry. So here it goes to 25 percent.”
Veliz’s organization is the local branch for Feeding America, which—among other things—counts the number of people who are going hungry across the country. Veliz says the beautiful beaches and mansions along the coast hide South Florida’s less glamorous areas. He uses Palm Beach County as an example:
“But when you start moving West, start going to Lake Worth, Pahokee, Belle Glade, you really start seeing the food insecurity get up over 40 percent.” says Veliz. “Broward, same thing, further west you get the more low-income families you’re going to find.”
Feeding America ranked Miami-Dade County the fifth worst metropolitan area in the country for food insecurity, according to Veliz. He blames the high numbers on the fact that the region has a lot of low-paying service jobs to support its large tourism industry.
Feeding South Florida held a farmers’ market in Miami Beach on Tuesday morning where volunteers gave out free—and fresh—fruits and vegetables. It also doubled as a kick-off event for Feeding America’s Hunger Action Month.
The South Florida branch and its counterparts around the country will be holding similar events throughout the month of September.