UnidosUS Affiliates all throughout the country are seeing our community face the same need: Latinos are struggling accessing food during the pandemic. “Food insecurity has been overwhelming,” Michelle Neugebauer, Cypress Hills Executive Director shares: “We’ve never seen food pantry lines as long as we see now.” From New York, where Cypress Hills is based, to Texas, Kansas, California, Florida, and beyond, our Affiliates have ensured our families have access to food, either by setting up food pantries themselves, by helping their clients enroll in SNAP, or by guiding them to where they could feed their families. Today we highlight the Mexican American Unity Council (MAUC), in San Antonio, Texas, and El Centro, in Kansas City, Kansas, two of our Esperanza/Hope Fund grantees providing food assistance and bringing hope to their communities.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS
MORE THAN 16,000 INDIVIDUALS FED
Promotores, community health workers, have become a source of trustworthy information many in the Latino community rely on. During the COVID-19 pandemic, their role has grown even further in importance and impact.
At El Centro, a group of promotoras who taught UnidosUS’s Comprando Rico y Sano curriculum, had helped Mrs. Triminio find a medical home where she could afford to take care of her blood pressure and diabetes. She had also been part of El Centro’s informative forums and, as the pandemic hit and El Centro shifted their work to meet some of the most basic needs of those most vulnerable, Mrs. Triminio went back to El Centro to ask for help.
She lost her job as a house cleaner, and her family relied on the organization’s food distribution to get fed. “El Centro pivoted to a weekly drive-through food distribution project, distributing fresh vegetables to our community” Isabel Caudillo, President and CEO of El Centro, shares.
Over 12 weeks, the organization was part of a weekly food distribution that provided fresh fruits and vegetables to 4,800 Latino households, more than 16,000 individuals, which was supported by UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund grant. El Centro has also assisted the people they serve to apply to SNAP and the Pandemic EBT card, so families could access food to put on the table.
Furthermore, this Kansas Affiliate has served as interpreters at their county’s pop-up COVID testing sites like the one Mrs. Triminio’s family had to visit. After five weeks benefiting from the food drive-through distribution, this family had a new request for El Centro: they needed to get a COVID test, which came back positive for both Mrs. Triminio and her son. Since she was a vulnerable patient due to her blood pressure and diabetes, she spent five weeks in intensive care, connected to a ventilator, while El Centro kept on supporting her family.
“Alejandro, her son, obtained DACA through one of our clinics. We were able to help him pay two months of rent and, thanks to one of his neighbors, every Friday the family continued to receive fresh fruits and vegetables while his mother was recovering in the intensive care,” Caudillo shares. Now Mrs. Triminio is fully recovered and very thankful for all the support she and her family received during one of the most difficult moments of her life.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION COLLABORATION
As one of the areas mostly impacted by furloughs and layoffs, San Antonio’s Westside, where MAUC operates, has seen an increase in the financial difficulties their families are going through. “Families are having to weigh their options and decide to put food on the table or pay essential bills such as rent, car payments and utility bills,” this Affiliate says.
Because of the food insecurity these individuals are facing, MAUC partnered with the San Antonio Food Bank to serve breakfast and lunch to children on weekdays, and they have provided a total of 110 meals to children.
But knowing that food insecurity went beyond the children of the house, the organization continued to reach and assist families to fill the gap of food insecurity in their community while food pantries and food banks were overwhelmed. More than 14,000 meals have been served as boxed lunches and breakfast for entire families, and MAUC has also assisted 400 clients with SNAP enrollment.
Erica Pastrano is the mother of one of the families this San Antonio organization has been able to assist with boxed meals and gift cards to cover other needs. “She was crying when she called us to thank us,” the organization explains. The difficulties they are facing after her husband lost his job and her children dealt with illnesses, have been lessened by our Affiliate’s helping hand.
UnidosUS’s Esperanza/Hope Fund was established in the beginning of the pandemic to cover these basic needs our Affiliate Network is filling. The challenges ahead are still great, and UnidosUS will continue providing emergency assistance to families in communities that need it the most through our network of community-based organizations. You can learn more about the Esperanza/Hope Fund here and continue supporting our Latinos through these health and economic crises.