Meet Feeding South Florida’s Paco Vélez

Photo courtesy of Feeding South Florida

Hi Paco! What’s your role here in South Florida?

As President and CEO of Feeding South Florida, I work with a dynamic team, more than 40,000 volunteers, a giving and generous community, and a committed network of partner agencies to end hunger in South Florida.

Where is the impact of your work being felt?

Feeding South Florida serves four counties in South Florida: Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. We provide nutritious meals and healthy food choices for families facing food insecurity across all of Miami-Dade County, from Aventura and Miami Gardens down to Homestead and Florida City. We’re proud of our profound connection with all these communities.

How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?

Miami is such a caring and giving community. The disparity between those who have resources and those who do not is among the most disparate in the country. Because the cost of living makes it difficult for so many to thrive in Miami, the community has been increasingly caring and giving to ensure families have access to the most basic need: healthy food.

If there was one thing you could change or fix in Miami, what would it be?

Although there are many things that will help families gain access to nutritious food, I am lumping them all into one response: I’d fix or remove barriers to accessing food. These barriers include lack of affordable housing and lack of transportation.

What’s your favorite Miami memory?

There are so many wonderful memories that touch my heart. One of the most recent memories was during the pandemic. Despite the health risks associated with working in close proximity to other individuals, Miami-Dade not only signed up to volunteer at our warehouse, but also showed up to volunteer at our many weekly distributions to ensure families who were in need of assistance, most for the first time in their lives, had much needed access to food.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Fortunately, Miami is such a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. With so much diversity in food, I’m so happy I don’t have to choose only one.

True story. Favorite meal aside, how would you spend your perfect Miami day?

With so many miles of beautiful coastline, I enjoy taking time to recharge at any of the beaches. During the cooler months, I like attending one of the many ‘movies at the park’ events. Lastly, with so many professional and amateur sports teams, there’s always an opportunity to catch a live sporting event.

What brings you most alive about the 305?

The generosity! Whether a natural disaster, a government shutdown, a global pandemic, or an economic crisis, Miami-Dade has always supported Feeding South Florida and families we serve. Miami has heart and we appreciate the ongoing and continued support to ensure working families live and thrive in the 305.

What’s your favorite local social media account and why?

@feedingsouthflorida of course! The social media accounts are a great community resource for families seeking assistance as well as a great way for those in our community who want to make a difference to be part of the solution.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

Find a passion and get involved in your community.

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Finding a new forever home. What this means for families: a facility dedicated to the advancement of our community through healthy food access, life skills training, and workforce development programs all while ensuring those who want a place to serve have a trusted place to be part of the solution.

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.