A conversation with Feeding South Florida's Paco Velez
- People should not go hungry.
- We take a lot of things for granted. Food. Fuel. The clothes on our back. The roof over our heads. When you’re stuck in your bubble, you don’t see what ails our community. And then you make assumptions that aren’t accurate.
- There are people who believe that we help individuals trying to milk the system. Or individuals who are lazy. Or people who are here illegally. They’re not. Our families struggle with purchasing nutritious food. Some parents are working two, three jobs just to survive.
- Desperation can lead you down the wrong path. When you’re constantly overwhelmed, and it feels like everything is against you, you’re eventually going to break. We want to help our families avoid that breaking point.
- What we do as an organization doesn’t fill me with pride because, to me, we have to take care of our community, our families, our kids, our seniors. But there is some satisfaction when you’re at a distribution site, and you see a child bite into an apple or open up a banana. That’s when you know that you’re having an impact on someone’s life.
- When you make food accessible to everybody—through distribution, coupons, community gardens—then you’ll see society getting better.
- How can we help families make better use of their remaining resources, once we’ve helped them with food? We show them how to fill out an application for food stamps. Or apply for Florida KidCare. We teach computer literacy. Nutrition classes. We’re seeing families become empowered and climb out of their situations.
- Am I here because the world is supposed to serve me? Or am I here to serve the world? Different people believe in varying degrees of those philosophies. My belief is that we’re here to serve. It’s what I’ve always believed.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, go to feedingsouthflorida.org or visit the main warehouse at 2501 SW 32nd Terrace in Pembroke Park.
The Vélez File
- Joined Feeding South Florida as CEO and president in April 2012.
- The organization rescued upward of 45 million pounds of food in 2017.
- Its refrigerated trucks make more than 600 stops a week at grocery stores, farms and outlets that donate fresh and nonperishable products.
- Vélez formerly served in an executive position at the San Antonio Food Bank, where he spent 12 years.