North Miami has launched a new initiative in an effort to tackle hunger and poverty.
In a joint partnership with Feeding South Florida and Florida Blue Foundation – a health insurance company – the city will now have its first-ever food pantry called NoMi Food Market.
On a bright sunny day, just before the weekend began, residents and special invited guests sat under a big white tent across from the building where the new pantry would be unveiled. Many awaited their chance to be one of the first ones to catch a glimpse of the new food market on Friday, Oct. 25. While others wondered aloud if non-Haitians will be able to benefit from the pantry’s services.
The pantry will offer fresh fruits, vegetables, health and beauty items, protein and dairy products on a weekly basis, free to all residents of North Miami. In addition, nutrition classes will be held as well as benefit screenings for SNAP and Medicaid; Florida KidCare applications are available, too.
A host of North Miami officials were in attendance including state Rep. Dotie Joseph as well as team members from both Florida Blue Foundation and Feeding South Florida.
The NoMi Food Market will be partly funded by a grant from the state of Florida, North Miami, Feeding South Florida and the Florida Blue Foundation.
Joseph lauded the partnership that brought the pantry to fruition. "It's those partnerships that get us to where we are today and we're going to do our best to make them even better," said Joseph of District 108.
Residents of North Miami will be able to access the pantry every Monday, Wednesday and Friday by appointment only, beginning Monday, Oct. 28.
"This will be the place to come because, not only will food be available, social services too," said North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime.
During the ceremony, a small group of North Miami residents, who were seated toward the back of the tent and live nearby where the food pantry will be located, said the city caters to those who are of Haitian descent more.
“Every time we come to a city event that has give-a-ways, those of us who are not Haitian have a hard time getting the resources, so with the help of Feeding South Florida now we’ll probably have better luck,” was the consensus of the group.
The pantry, sparked by an idea of councilman Alix Desulme, turned into reality after the city council passed a resolution back in June allowing the pantry to be established.
Deslume, who was re-elected to serve in North Miami's District 4, said the pantry is for everybody.
"This is a marketplace for everybody in the City of North Miami and I am over the moon excited to see the pantry come into fruition," said Deslume.
The fifth largest city in Miami-Dade County, 31% of the residents who live in North Miami are Haitian, according to the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.
Barbara Polynice, a resident of North Miami, came to see the opening of the pantry on Friday. When she saw the contents of the pantry, she called it "a beautiful blessing in the community."
The pantry will be housed at the Sunkist Grove Community Center, located at 12500 NW 13 Ave. The city's Housing and Social Services Department staff will manage its operations.
The president and CEO of Feeding South Florida Paco Velez, thanked everyone in attendance and encouraged all residents to consider the pantry as a center where they can come in and get food as well as assistance.
"It's great to have the policymakers at the table understanding the needs of the community. We're super excited to serve and help families with food so that they can eat healthy, live healthy and ultimately thrive," said Velez.
On the opening day of the NoMi Food Market, between 11 and 11:30 a.m. the intake number rang busy for 30 long minutes. Once the line became available, it rang again several times. No one answered. A voicemail recording was heard.
North Miami residents in need of assistance from the pantry, should call 305-953-3053 to begin the intake process.