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'The first in Florida': Meals of Hope initiative helps feed babies in struggling families

Posted at 7:45 PM, May 17, 2024

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla — Families lined up in Immokalee on Friday to receive much-needed food for their babies, thanks to a new initiative by Meals of Hope. This is the first baby food pantry in the state, according to the non-profit organization.

On Friday, volunteers from Meals of Hope gathered outside the Guadalupe Center to distribute baby food and formula to families in need.

Speaking to Fox 4, Isabel, a local teacher who has two small children, shared her personal experience with the high cost of baby formula.

"For one can of formula, maybe this size, just a standard size, we're looking at about $30. For me personally, that's a lot to afford," Isabel said.

"One visit here can help food-insecure mothers and their babies for weeks. They don’t just give us one or two baby foods; they give us enough for at least a month," she added

Meals of Hope is no stranger to helping those in need. In May, the organization celebrated packaging 100 million meals for families across the region.

"We have 15 mobile food pantries around Collier and Lee County, but we saw a specific need for babies and children up to 5 years old that nobody was helping," said Julyvette Pacheco, the Community Outreach Manager at Meals of Hope.

Pacheco mentioned that the only other baby food pantry in the country is in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her team launched this drive after noticing the increased number of families coming to them with kids, particularly after COVID-19 and Hurricane Ian.

"We started little by little, but now we are impacting 152 children every week, every Friday," Pacheco said. "We’ve seen more and more families coming lately, and it’s good because we know we’re doing something that’s helping the community," she added.

Meals of Hope says it purchases all the baby food and supplies using donations. The baby food pantries operate on Mondays and Fridays.