Lunch will soon arrive and about 30 children anxiously wait while they sit at white tables. In the patio of the Gwen Cherry #14 apartments in Allapattah, the children talk, laugh, look at their surroundings curiously. The truck for the “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” program of Sisters for Abundant Living has both of its doors open, while trays of corn dogs and carrots as well as small refrigerated milk and juice carts head their way.
Tara Martin, 10, and Aarya Capehard, 5, enjoy their meals. Tara removes the corn bread off her hot dog and eats it piece by piece. Aarya is quick to squirt some ketchup on the side of her tray. They eat with gusto. The girls say they’re happy to be able to eat alongside their friends at the table. The smile on their faces was as eloquent as they were when they ate.
A pilot food delivery program offers Miami-Dade youngsters nutritious meals for free. It’s all part of an initiative between Miami-Dade Public Housing & Community Development, Sisters for Abundant Living, Florida Impact and other community partners.
“This is a way of reaching all the kids, particularly those who are not attending camps or other summer programs,” said Christina Sudduth, coordinator of the Florida Impact of Greater Miami, during this year’s launch of the Summer BreakSpot, a free statewide food program for children and adolescents 18 years old or younger. It is financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Agriculture Department and Consumer Services of Florida. The mobile units exist in other counties, but according to Sudduth, this is the first time in Miami-Dade.
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According to Summer BreakSpot data, last year the program served 2.5 million lunches and close to 28,000 children in Miami-Dade County, representing 14.5% students in the county who are eligible to participate. The goal, Sudduth said, is to increase the participation of children in the program and fight hunger.
Lettie Brice and Rodini Gilberto of Sisters for Abundant Living serve food to the children with dedication. They balance authority and sympathy.
Brice requested the apples they’d distribute in a short while and said that feeding children makes him “happy.”
“The kids need this and some parents don’t have the time or the means to feed them,” Brice said. “For some children, sometimes, this is all they have.”
Gilberto, on the other hand, says he treats them with the closeness of “an older brother.”
“I’m passionate about working with kids, I interact with them, I laugh with them and try to motivate them,” he said. “I was able to go to the university and if I could so can they.”
The program in Miami-Dade runs through Aug. 21 and operate Mondays through Fridays. There are delivery routes in five areas and it provides meals to children near to their homes.
For more information about the Summer BreakSpot call 211, text “FOODFL” to 877877, download the Nutrislice app or log on to www.summerfoodflorida.org.
Follow Carmen Graciela Diaz on Twitter: @carmen7graciela
Programs similar to Summer BreakSpot are available in Broward and other counties throughout Florida.
During the summer, Miami-Dade County’s Department of Food and Nutrition will serve lunch from noon to 1 p.m. daily to children 18 and younger in the following locations:
▪ North County K-8, 3250 NW 207th St.
▪ Ada Merritt K-8, 660 SW Third St.
▪ Meadowlane Elementary, 4280 W. Eighth Ave.
▪ Campbell Drive K-8, 15790 SW 307th St.
▪ Oak Grove Elementary,15640 NE Eighth Ave.
▪ Phyllis Wheatley Elementary, 1801 NW First Pl.
For more specifics concerning the Department of Food and Nutrition of the Miami-Dade County Public School System food distribution program, call the school nearest to your home.