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Pandemic worsens food insecurity for Latinx population

Posted at 9:38 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 18:33:05-05

DENVER, Colo. — The mission of the nonprofit GrowHaus is to create community-driven food systems by serving as a hub for food production, distribution and education.

Karla Olivas is a promotora, which is a community health worker that is active within Latinx populations across the U.S.

“We educate persons about healthy food and about making medicine out of plants or herbs,” Olivas said.

During the pandemic, GrowHaus has been delivering boxes of food to families in need.

“Flour, sugar, chips or popcorn, beans, tortillas, the vegetables we get from our donations and sometimes it’s milk, eggs,” Olivas said.

According to Feeding America – a nationwide network of food banks that provides emergency food assistance to millions of people every year – the pandemic has worsened the problem of food insecurity.

“Food insecurity means you’re facing hunger," said Feeding America's Zuani Villarreal. "It means you may not know how to provide food for your family.”

Villarreal says four in ten people are turning to food banks who never had to before.

“The USDA said that there’s 35 million people that were food insecure before the pandemic," Villarreal said. "Using our Map the Meal Gap study, and evaluating annualized poverty rates and unemployment rates, we are projecting that this year because of the pandemic we will see 50 million people in the U.S. that are facing hunger.”

Many of those are people in Latinx populations. A report from Feeding America explains Latino individuals are almost twice as likely to live in food insecure households compared to non-Hispanic white individuals. Villarreal says that will likely get even worse after all the job loss this year.

“We know that at the peak, the Latinos unemployment rate was higher than any other demographic group, the service industry and the travel and hospitality industry. They’re disproportionally employed by people of color, and so those are the jobs that have been going away or have been reduced because of the pandemic,” Villarreal said.

Olivas adds a lot of them are immigrants who likely don’t have unemployment or insurance benefits.

“When they cut the hours or they stop businesses and they cannot work, they cannot get enough money to put food on the table,” Olivas said.

To combat the systemic problem, Olivas says they are trying to empower Latinx populations to rely on each other for services to keep money in the community, whether it’s sewing a dress or making food to sell to a neighbor.

“We are going to keep working with the community remotely," Olivas said. "We have been planning our classes online to keep teaching people how to grow their own vegetables.”

Villarreal says Feeding America is also doing what it can to help people of color.

“For us as a network, what we are doing is we are looking at those community that are more severely impacted, and looking to funnel resources to those food banks and those communities to provide additional support,” Villarreal said.

Anybody else who would like to extend a helping hand is encouraged to donate food, funds, or time as a volunteer, whether it be for GrowHaus, Feeding America, or another local food bank in your area. Olivas says offering a necessity like food, helps families build a better life for their children.

“It is something like, we’re taking one thing from their back to worry about – now OK we have food this week, so we can focus on other things," Olivas said. "And focus on their kids because most of the families, both parents work, and they work all day."