Food for Thought: Miami Southridge Senior High serves students with school pantry

Miami Southridge Senior High is located in the suburb of South Miami Heights and educates nearly 2,000 students.

MIAMI – Miami Southridge Senior High is located in the suburb of South Miami Heights and educates nearly 2,000 students. Its home to the Spartans. But as Local 10′s Community Relations Director, Mayte Padron, discovered, some 200 of those students are fighting homelessness, and the school may be the closest thing they have to a home.

“We have a few shelters that aren’t too far away that feed into our school, and a lot of our families are what’s called doubled up,” explained Dr. Victor Tejera the school’s trust counselor. “They live with an aunt or bring grandma in to cover the cost of living and those are the ones that we support, because there is a risk factor there.”

Dr. Tejera also oversees the student pantry, which was started seven years ago, under the guidance of the school’s principal, Humberto Miret. A classroom was transformed into a mini market to meet the basic needs of students and their families.

“All students that get flagged are identified into what’s called Project Upstart, which is the homeless prevention and intervention program, receive information about the pantry and it’s basically an open door,” said Tejera. “They just let us know and you can come shop.”

According to Feeding America, 21 percent of kids in Florida experience food insecurity. It’s why in-school food pantries are important, because they give students direct access to essential items, including food, school supplies, clothing and personal hygiene items.

Since Miami Southridge’s pantry relies mostly on private donations, as part of Local 10′s Food for Thought program, we teamed up with Publix to cover shelf-stable food donations and reached out to our partners at Colgate Palmolive to provide personal hygiene products.

“We’re happy to partner with Channel 10 and tell this story, be able to showcase what’s happening in our schools, in our backyards that’s affecting our youth and affecting our future,” said Robyn Hankerson Printemps, media relations manager for Publix. “I think opportunities like this bring awareness, and I think awareness is key.”

Staff and students at Miami Southridge say they hope awareness prompts action in order to stomp hunger.

“The pantry is not just the place where you get food, it’s just to have an overall sense of support, locally, very close to home,” said Dr. Tejera.

If you would like to help youth and families in South Florida struggling with hunger, Local 10 has established a fund where you can give safely and conveniently. One hundred percent of monies collected is distributed in our local communities.

Click on to make a difference.

About the Author:

Mayte Padron Cordones is an Emmy-award winning journalist and the director of WPLG's Community Relations Department, overseeing the station's outreach initiatives to benefit and strengthen the South Florida community.