Monday, August 10, 2009

Latino Food Pantry

We have been looking for ways to partner with the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, since we share a building together. We have dabbled in a few tasks, such as giving out groceries on occasion, unloading the truck and taking in donations. More recently, we have been able to contribute by picking and packing vegetables and even managing what we hope will be a regular milk delivery.

Their presence in the house has been a real blessing for us, as well. It is nice having people coming and going on a regular basis. They have helped fix up the basement, and their members have gotten involved in our activities. They have given us snack foods for some of our events.

Still, we have not found our niche yet.

We are continually reminded that the Latino community includes some of the more under served people in our city. We come in contact with them regularly through ESL and the Legal Clinic.

It turns out there is only one Latino-oriented food pantry in central Ohio! Our Lady of Guadalupe carries the weight, and they are in the southwest corner of Columbus. [See comment below, we have since discovered there are two others!]

There is no reason why Latinos could not come to our food pantry as it is now. However, the language barrier is quite substantial, so the referral agencies such as Firstlink and J.O.I.N. simply don't send them to us. It also helps to have foods that make sense culturally, as people know how to stretch a dollar better with their native foods. Advertising should also be done in Spanish.

We have been talking about making this pantry more accessible to the Latino community. We would have to add a rotation of bilingual support and then make some adjustments in terms of food ordering and translating documents. It may sound easy, but it will take a lot of work to integrate a new program into an existing operation.

The amazing thing is that we are so well positioned to do this, as if the Holy Spirit just lined it all up perfectly: The St. James the Less food pantry has been handing out groceries since 1954, and they know the food pantry business like the back of their hands! Our parish has a large Latino congregation who can assist with the workload. There is also a large population in the area who can benefit directly from the pantry. Our geographic location is just right, being on the opposite end of town as the other Latino-oriented pantry. The Catholic Worker is willing to manage this new operation.

Our plan is to offer bilingual support at the pantry one day each week, and then see how it unfolds. Initially, we wanted to open the pantry to Latinos on a separate day but decided to integrate it on a day when the English speaking pantry is also working. That may be a blessing as members of both the English and Spanish speaking communities will have the opportunity to mix and mingle. The two communities are not well integrated right now, mostly due to the language barrier.

The Holy Spirit seems to be moving us in this direction, and we are grateful for the exciting opportunities to serve folks in the near future! I am excited that we could be able to develop only the second Spanish-speaking food pantry in the city!

The two top pictures above are of St. Vincent de Paul. The bottom picture is Blessed Frederic Ozanam, who founded the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and whose writings on social justice helped pave the wave for modern Catholic Social Teaching.
ADDED LATER: Many apologies to other local groups! We have sinced discovered that there is a Latino-oriented food pantry at the Smoky Row Brethren Chruch Saturdays from 8-10 am as well as Christ the King Catholic Church Wednesdays 9-noon and daysThurs 3-6 pm, both in Columbus.


Unknown said...

Smoky Row Brethren Church, at 7260 Smoky Row Road, 43235, has a fairly significant food pantry that does primarily serve Latinos; it's Saturdays, 8-10a (although people arrive much earlier). We usually have roughly 50 households receive food. If you'd like more info, email peace.

Frank L said...

Rich, thanks for the comment. I will need to append this post, as we have since discovered that there is also a Latino-oriented pantry at Christ the King Catholic Church, as well!

I do apologize for the misinformation!