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Miami Proud: How Cooking For The Community Became One Couple's Pandemic Pivot

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - In a two-bedroom apartment in Kendall, Lauren and Ken Mason are doing food prep.

Chopping vegetables using folding tables in the living room. They are making curry chicken, a lot of curry chicken.

Their home became their 'office' like many - a  product of the pandemic.

Where there was a dining room now stand two freezers and a refrigerator and shelving stocked with canned food and other pantry items.

In early 2020, Ken was a chef at corporate offices for a cruise line and Lauren was an administrative professional for 15 years at a hospital.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he would lose his job, and she didn't feel safe at hers.

"I have an autoimmune disorder so that's a huge factor- and one of the reasons why even after he was furloughed, I decided to stay home. I didn't feel comfortable going to the hospital," said Lauren.

The parents of two boys, their normally very hectic life came to a halt.

They suddenly had a lot of time and a lot of food.

When the pandemic started they had stockpiled food for the kids, in particular, not knowing what was next.

Eventually, not needing as much as they thought, Lauren said she looked for a place to donate it and came to a realization.

"We were looking for someplace that we could donate it to, someone who could use it, but we realize that hardly any take refrigerated or frozen food it's all shelf staple," she said.

They had heard about Miami Community Fridge, a network of (now) ten fridges providing free food in various neighborhoods.

They took food to the one in Coconut Grove.

Lauren posted a picture on Instagram and soon they were contacted by the organization asking if they could help with a fridge in Richmond Heights.

"From there we started filling those two fridges and also the one in Florida City because those are the closest to us. In Richmond Heights, we realized that there were things that were going bad because a lot of the people who use the fridges are houseless, so they don't have a place to cook," said Lauren

Putting Ken's chef skills to work they decided to combat both food waste and food insecurity: cooking donated items that are good to eat -but past the sell-by date - and delivering ready-to-eat meals.

"From there it kind of snowballed, so we started getting contacted from different organizations and churches like that they were just offering to help and everybody asking 'do you want this? Do you have this? Do you want this?," said Lauren.

They acquired two refrigerators and lots of food, and since April they have been delivering food several times a week.

They have set up a nonprofit and a website for the organization, calling it "Be the Change South Florida".

The goal is to continue partnering with other organizations to maximize reach and to find a bigger space.

Ideally, they are hoping to find a place that will have a kitchen and storage.

"As it is we're putting out a few hundred meals a day - a few thousand meals a week," said Lauren.

Ken said that they are packing the meals with protein and calories, making quality meals and a lot of sandwiches.

As of late October, Ken is back to work at a cruise line again, working in their corporate offices as a chef.

At home, the mission continues, as the Christian couple feels this is what they are called to do, like a ministry.

Ken explained what keeps them motivated.

"There are days that we are super tired. When it's 8 o'clock at night we finally get done but then we are like let me just push this one more time- and that's when we get the responses like  'oh I get to eat today, thank you.' And that's what this is all about, that community - that we have- that we are making a difference," he said.

For more information, visit their website here. 

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