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Miami Proud: New Horizon Church's food pantry is lifeline for hundreds of families

Miami Proud: New Horizon Church's food pantry nourishes body and soul
Miami Proud: New Horizon Church's food pantry nourishes body and soul 02:26

FORT LAUDERDALE - Rev. Peytyn Tobin and volunteers at New Horizon United Methodist Church in Southwest Ranches learned in 2009 that food insecurity was affecting families all over Broward County. So, they launched a grassroots program, Pack-A-Sack, to get meals to kids who needed them over the weekends.

It kept growing from there.

"Today there are 80,000 kids in Broward County who go without food every day when they go home and that should not happen," said Tobin.

The efforts evolved into the nonprofit organization Nourishing Lives, and today a weekly drive-thru they host is a lifeline for about 250 families. No one is turned away, although they are preregistered to ensure that their needs are met.

Bags of pasta, canned food, fresh veggies, and more are carefully packaged and placed in cars by volunteers. Some will pick up for multiple families who don't have transportation. This week there is a hot pizza so everyone has dinner that night.

There is a real connection and support on a one-to-one basis at the site. A friendly interaction. Sarah Noel is a former volunteer and now serves as the organization's community outreach coordinator.

"We're making sure that they are getting all the love that they can through a smile, asking the simple question - how are you? In addition to seeing that the cars are filled with as many food items as we can fit in," she said

"This has become their community, this has become a place where they belong and they feel love," Pastor Tobin added.

These are families who may have lost a job or are just trying to keep up with inflation, or worse. Stephanie Longo lost her job and was diagnosed with cancer at the same time.

"They really stepped in and helped my family at a time where we really didn't know where to turn," she said.

The married mother of two reluctantly accepted the help, both the food and a position teaching preschool at the church. She's now cancer free.

For volunteer college student Nicholas Stein, who got involved in 2019, the work is both rewarding and eye-opening.

"Food insecurity is in your own backyard and it's a battle on every front," he said.

Today the Pack-A-Sack program is working with ten schools in Broward.

Pastor Tobin says they are grateful for the grants and funding provided by donors, like the United Way, Rotary Club International, South Florida Hunger Coalition, Walmart, and many others. Her goal is to not only help more people but teach other organizations how to do the same thing.

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