In the midst of our second month of sheltering at home, the food needs of our community are at an all-time high. SACA’s Community Meals Program used to serve 100 meals per day. These lunches and dinners on weekdays and dinners on Saturdays were hot meals in our Senior Center. In addition to serving seniors breakfast and mid-day meals, our Centro Hispano serves as a community hub – a place where people can go for programs or services they need, even if it is just companionship.
Now, the Community Meals program has shifted to Grab & Go meals and our individuals in need have expanded – it’s the young and old, the unemployed, and the retired. It’s now 1,000 meals per week. To be blunt, COVID-19 has challenged us in scale and delivery as our community’s needs have changed, but we have risen to the challenge. We are humbled and proud to continue to fill a vital need for our community.
Life is different now, but we have been reminiscing about what Centro Hispano looked like before COVID-19. We used to see seniors come by not just to eat but to nourish their souls through camaraderie and companionship. The senior men would wear suits and black fedoras to impress the ladies. As they ate breakfast and lunch, they would play dominoes with each other. There would be music and laughter and kisses on the cheek. We miss seeing our community: hearing about their grandchildren, holding their hands, helping them with paperwork and shopping lists, laughing at their stories. We were proud to tell our donors that their funds went toward feeding and building a community.
But we have come to accept a new reality: our space sits empty and quiet now. We greet those in need of food assistance at our door because we are unable to allow our diners to enter the building. A staff member hands a paper bag with food to a neighbor in need through a small opening in the door, gloved hand touching gloved hand, masks covering once-smiling faces. Our diners eat away from each other now – no conversations over lunch, no laughter together. Still, we are focused on doing the best we can for our community.
There is another big way our program has changed. Prior to COVID 19, we typically served 600 meals a week; now, we serve nearly 1,000. For SACA, the market experience has always been different. When you are shopping for hundreds, you need to buy in bulk! And with economic uncertainty and layoffs abounding, there are even more needy members of our community to feed. We thought we would share our supermarket list with you all, to let you know what your donations go toward. Here is an idea of what we buy every week:
100 loaves of bread
6 gallons of mayonnaise
30 pounds of cheese
30 pounds of turkey
30 pounds of bologna
40 pounds of ham
50 pounds of pasta
900 juice boxes
900 fruit cups and/or fresh fruit pieces 900 bags of chips and/or pretzels
900 granola bars
50 pounds of hamburger meat
10 pounds of onions
5 pounds of tomatoes
10 pounds of chili beans
20 pounds of green peppers
50 pounds of potatoes
80 dozen eggs
20 pounds of chicken
10 pounds of carrots
900 fork, spoon, and napkin packets
900 4 oz. Styrofoam cups and lids
450 6 oz. Styrofoam cups and lids
900 paper lunch bags
1000 plastic sandwich bags
As social distancing and stay at home orders continue and our local unemployment numbers skyrocket, our community is to struggling to eat. Even as the needy members of our community question if their next paycheck will come or if their children can return to school, we want them to know that food will still be in their fridges, that their families will not go hungry.