Fresh Produce for Maseca Mondays

Remember back in the spring when we talked about Maseca Mondays?

Well, Maseca Mondays continued throughout the summer! We pledged at the beginning of the pandemic that our Latino immigrant families would receive the basics to put together a meal – rice, beans, and tortilla mix.

But Maseca Mondays didn’t stop with just rice, beans, and Maseca. Thanks to a grant through The Table in the World, a ministry of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, we are also able to offer farm-fresh vegetables and fruits through Cinco Panes, our weekly food pantry. And we’ll be able to continue our commitments into the fall to ensure that vulnerable Latino families have access to the basics for a healthy, nutritious diet.

Over the past six months, Latino immigrant families across our nation have been some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus. At one point, just over 50% of the persons who texted positive in our community were Latino.

Many Latinos worked in jobs and were considered essential workers. While restaurants closed their dining rooms, they were still providing carry-out and drive-through services – and kitchen workers remained employed. Construction workers and those who work in meat-packing and poultry industries remained employed, as did agricultural workers. While still receiving a paycheck was good, it also meant that people were directly exposed to the coronavirus.

Within a short time, many workers became ill and entire families were quarantined, which left some families with no source of income. These same families didn’t receive unemployment benefits or economic stimulus payments, so they struggled with rent, utilities, and food costs. And on top of the other challenges, children were engaged in at-home and online learning, and many parents couldn’t return to full-time jobs as they had in the past. And while many people have returned to work, their hours have been reduced, and they got so far behind while they were not working that it has been difficult to catch up.

Immigrants are proud — and reluctant to ask for help. “There are people who need help more than we do,” I hear quite often. I assure people that there is plenty of help available, and encourage them to please take a bag of veggies or fruit. It’s not just about “need,” I assure them; it’s also about nutrition and health.

One of the biggest surprises has been the quality of the products that we are providing. One week, when we provided freshly-harvested carrots, one lady assured me that she really didn’t like carrots very much, so she would just take a couple to try. A few days later, she called to report that she’d “never tasted carrots like those carrots!” Many of our clients return with stories of a new recipe or a having been introduced to a new vegetable.

Having a sufficient amount of fresh fruits and veggies that have to be distributed quickly has encouraged us to expand our distribution model and rely more on community members to also distribute to their friends and neighbors. People are more likely to see need in their own circles, and to be part of the helping chain. One note reads, “Many thanks for the food . . . would it be possible to help my sister-in-law? She doesn’t receive any help at all.”

We’re very thankful for all of our community partners and individuals who have helped us provide for the needs of the Latino community. We’ve provided for the basic food needs of approximately 45-50 families per week; distributed countless face masks; and provided emergency assistance in the form of rental assistance, basic medicines, and hygiene products.

Thank you, not just from LUCHA Ministries, but also from each of those families who has been helped through your generosity during difficult times.

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