Luzmariana Iacono: Miami Service Project 2021

Art Service Project Spring 2021: Luzmariana Iacono

STUDENT BIO

Luzmariana Iacono in Doral, Florida, 2021 

Luzmariana Iacono is an enthusiastic and passionate student in her junior year at the honors College in Florida International University. She is majoring in Marketing and International Business with the hopes of using the skills and lessons learned for her own future business and career. She is a Skin Care specialist and Makeup Artist who is striving to grow in the beauty industry by working as a Freelancer for Makeup and at a franchise to become an expert in waxing. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and she sees the beauty of art in nature, through sculptures, and just in artistic concepts that are yet to be developed. 

WHO 

FEEDING SOUTH FLORIDA

Feeding South Florida is a private nonprofit organization founded in 1981. It is the largest food back that serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe Counties. Their mission is to end hunger in South Florida by providing meals to those who most need it: whether it be children, older adults, working poor, single parents, veterans, and former neighbors. In terms of numbers, through direct-service programs and donations, Feeding South Florida has distributed nearly 119 million pounds of food to over 706,000 individuals – the majority of them being children and older adults. Their vision is to at least allow those families who are struggling to switch from a dependency status to self-sufficient, which is extremely important now that the pandemic has taken a toll on the overall health and wealth of the state. They are members of the Feeding America network of food banks and administer the Farmers Feeding Florida program. They have three major programs: Feed, Lead, and Strengthen. The first one is the one I decided to attend (General Food Distribution), which focuses on distributing food from a variety of donors to those in need. Seniors have the ability to receive their food box directly at home, and the Disaster Relief event occurs at shelters to aid them during the pre-stage and in the post-storm. 

WHY

I discovered this volunteering opportunity when I was in high school and have been participating in different occasions throughout the years. It does not particularly relate to my major, but having enough food to eat on a daily basis is a need that no human should be deprived of. I believe that instead of mainly donating money to associations, what makes a volunteering opportunity really personal is doing the work in person. Whether it be packing the boxes, or in this case distributing them to each car that passed by made me realize that kindness is really all we have for a community to thrive. It is definitely an interest of mine because I know the food is reaching those people, I can see the effect it has on them when they say “thank you” with a warm smile, and given the current circumstances created by Covid-19 it is the best way I could help and connect with others. 

HOW

Besides being part of the honors college, I have been a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars for about 2 semesters and will be until I graduate. Out of all the events they sponsor, I decided to participate in this volunteering opportunity because I already knew what the organization was about, how they were helping the community, and how committed and professional they are. I was able to meet Mr. Christopher Zegarra, who is the District Secretary in the Florida House of Representatives. He was leading the event and made sure every volunteer knew the importance of this drive-through distribution by giving us all the details and inviting us to the next event. 

WHERE & WHAT

April 9th, 2021 

In this most recent event I attended, we distributed boxes of food that contained dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt and other supplies like chicken, hot dogs, and tangerine as a fruit. This was a walk-in event that lasted for about 4 hours due to the amount of people that showed up. That day we distributed an average of 1000, almost 2000 boxes of food to approximately 320 cars. In the past when I participated there were definitely more cars, but since these events occur every Friday morning it is normal not to work with the same amount of people. In the past, I also participated in the assembling section of this distribution process, where we had to select the food supplies and create the boxes ourselves. What I found interesting about that opportunity is that the vegetables we were using were residues from local farms, but they looked good as ever (they were not spoiled but people refused to buy them). For this project however, I focused on distributing the boxes that were already assembled and I am looking forward to serving the community through these events more often. 

Picture taken and edited by Luzmariana Iacono of FIU, featuring the content inside the boxes and the drive-through process. Located in front of the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition space area on April 9th, 2021. 

WHEN  

SUMMARY

My experience volunteering with Feeding South Florida was positive and it made me reflect on current issues. After the pandemic hit, those food drives became even more important for people, since more people lost their jobs and might be struggling to get back on their feet. I noticed that on this occasion we were able to distribute two boxes per person, and those who had only one ticket they were kind in asking for a second box – since there were not many people, we were able to give that extra help. Maybe not everyone who showed up really needed the box because they were driving a Tesla, for example, but I am sure that everything that is done with good intentions and from the heart will have its reward. While researching more about Feeding South Florida, I learned about their Hunger 101 program that it is suitable for small and large groups. They offer interactive team-building and educational activities to demonstrate how impactful and real hunger and poverty can be even in the most rich countries. I believe that the  “Poverty Simulation” and “Market Mania” activities could be presented to high-school and college students in the attempt to raise awareness around the issue. The poverty simulation clarifies certain misconceptions about poverty and inspires change while learning more about the community. The Market Mania simulation reminds me of the beginning stages of the pandemic, when shelves in the supermarket were empty and people were desperate to find the right products (even if they were overpriced). In this simulation, people will be placed in a position of a family who goes grocery shopping on a limited budget to notice how much nutritious food can actually be purchased. Both initiatives, amongst other great ones offered by FSF, could easily be implemented in schools and in businesses. They increase awareness and start conversations that can actually lead to change. If we all take some type of action, maybe the world could actually be a better place. 

Sources: “Feeding South Florida.” FEEDING SOUTH FLORIDA, https://feedingsouthflorida.org/ 

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