“People are thankful to have access to food banks, but there’s something special about seeing food you’re familiar with.”
This is how Roxana Pardo Garcia of La Roxay Productions describes the work of Alimentando El Pueblo, or Feeding El Pueblo, a campaign to distribute culturally relevant food items to the Highline area of King County in partnership with Lake Burien Presbyterian Church, Southwest Youth & Family Services, Para Los Ninos, and Colectiva Legal Del Pueblo.
Lake Burien Presbyterian, Global to Local in Tukwila, and other community organizations have regularly provided food to Highline residents. But COVID-19 and its economic impacts exacerbated existing structural racism and inequities that result in families going hungry. As a recent King County report showed, even before COVID-19, 12% of King County adults experienced food insecurity. By June of this year, 18% more households in King County received State food assistance compared to January 2020, representing an additional 17,300 households.
Fulfilling a community need
Pardo Garcia saw this need rising throughout Burien, White Center, Normandy Park, and other cities in the Highline area. She was worried about the stigma associated with food banks and she didn’t see many sites providing the ingredients she and her neighbors are used to using. Many families that live in the Highline area are Latinx and have cultural ties throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. So, partners at Alimentando El Pueblo started raising funds and determining how to source culturally relevant food in bulk to give to their neighbors.
La Roxay and other partner organizations initially donated and raised over $10,000 to provide bulk food and fresh produce to families throughout Highline. Since late July, they have distributed 450 boxes to over 1,200 community members who had their choice of a Mexican box that includes Chile California and tortillas, a Central American box with condensed and evaporated milk, or a Caribbean box with yucca and plantains.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19
Organizers and volunteers take precautions to not only protect themselves from COVID-19 but also support neighbors to slow its spread in the Highline area. On food pickup day, volunteers help families line up inside their cars outside of Lake Burien Presbyterian Church. Everyone in the car must wear a mask before volunteers approach the window to speak with the resident. Food boxes are placed directly in the trunk or back seat of the car without any physical contact between people. Families receive supplies including Public Health flyers on how to wear a mask properly, a set of masks, and hand sanitizer provided by the County.
Organizers and volunteers at Alimentando El Pueblo are living their values. “Our hope with the project was to also invest directly in Latinx-owned businesses,” explains Pardo Garcia. They source produce from a Latinx-owned farm in central Washington and supplies from a La Canasta Food Market in Burien. Volunteers are finding other ways to support the community such as encouraging participation in the census to ensure government resources reach the community. Partners hope to not only continue the campaign but also include requested provisions like diapers and baby formula.
Alimentando El Pueblo increased their fundraising goal to $25,000 and is accepting donations for a second round of food distribution.
Families throughout King County can access emergency food assistance at kingcounty.gov/covid/emergency-food.
Originally posted September 17th, 2020.