The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Food Insecurity
According to recent projections from Feeding America at some point this year, 54 million Americans, including 1 in 4 children — may not know where their food is coming from.
Staying healthy has always been a priority, but with the current pandemic, it has never been more important. Malnutrition weakens our immune system, especially in children, making them more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as coronavirus.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity, when a household consistently has difficulty in providing enough food for a healthy life due to a lack of resources, has been rising in every part of the United States and these trends are expected to continue all throughout 2020. According to research from The Hamilton Project, nearly 1 in 5 young children in the U.S. are not getting enough to eat during the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of the widespread stay-at-home orders in place to prevent the spread of the virus, unemployment rates are spiking and consequently, the food security of millions of Americans has been compromised. Unfortunately, this is especially true for children. Thankfully there are people trying to do something about it.
Read2Suceed– a non-profit designed to improve children’s academic performance- launched a new initiative in partnership with the USDA called Eat2Succeed in order to help families during these uncertain times. As part of this new initiative, they’re distributing free breakfast packages and hot lunches to children under 18 every Monday and Wednesday, by the soccer fields at Millers Pond Park.
I had the opportunity to interview Adriana Jaramillo, Program Director for Read2Succeed to find out more on Eat2Suceed, her work, other tools and resources available to help families in need find free meals for their children and much more.
Read2Succeed, founded in 2005 is an entirely a minority and women-led nonprofit. Through their holistic approach focused on all-encompassing family wellness, Read2Suceceed has been committed to aiding minority children and families living in under-served communities throughout Miami-Dade. Here is Adriana’s interview:
“Our dream is to elevate families to lead healthy, happy, and wholehearted lives.”-Adriana
Tell me about the work you do as Program Director for Read2Succeed. What led you to start working at Read2Succeed?
After I left traditional education, I knew I wanted to continue supporting children on their academic and personal journeys. I see education as the backbone of communities. That’s how I found my way into nonprofits and Read2Succeed has a focus on not only education but also the holistic needs of families. As the program director, I help oversee operations and drive the vision of the agency alongside the coolest executive director ever. We’re practically family and it’s been awesome building our dream together of finding new ways to serve!
You’ve launched a new initiative: Eat2Succeed. Can you tell more about the work you do at Eat2Succeed?
When COVID hit, we knew we needed to pivot and our immediate concern was ensuring no child went hungry. Because of COVID-related job loss and financial hardship, many families have started to worry about when they’d get their next meal. Eat2Succeed has been in full swing this summer. To date, we’ve distributed close to 2,000 free meals to families in need, via curbside pick-up at Miller’s Pond Park.
What role does the USDA have in this partnership?
The USDA is the sponsor of this service. They’ve provided the funding that makes Eat2Succeed possible. Through the USDA, we’ve partnered with Aroma Catering, a woman-owned catering company in Homestead because we love to see women succeed in business!
What should people know before arriving to Miller’s Pond Park to pick up their meals?
Meals are distributed Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 am until food runs out. All service is curbside and volunteers follow COVID-safety compliance like wearing masks and gloves. They help us by popping the trunk or lowering the windows of the vehicle. Families receive multiple meals to support them throughout the week, bundled by meal type: hot, cold and dry. All items are individually wrapped and placed in grocery bags.
You distribute meals in a specific location, can you suggest any online tools/resources that can help families in need find meals for their children?
The Florida Division of Food Nutrition and Wellness is the go-to for finding meals and food resources! And definitely check out Summer Breakspot by Fresh from Florida as they list the different locations you can go to for free meal distribution.
How can people who want to help Eat2Suceed get involved? Are there any volunteering opportunities?
Totally! In fact our team is growing! We’re seeking time and talent to build The Uplift League, an action committee of young professionals who want to elevate families by helping us build our agency’s capacity to serve. For food distribution volunteering, email [email protected] or follow and contact us through Instagram.
“Being able to provide some kind of relief, comfort, encouragement or hope–that’s what I live for and leading a nonprofit let’s me achieve it.”-Adriana
Can you tell me about your background? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Quito, Ecuador, and came to the states as a baby. Kendall has been my home since I could remember and I’m a Miami girl 100% who’s also very proud of her Ecuadorian heritage. I grew up in the Hammocks!
You made it your priority to address the emotional needs of families right now, meaning also addressing anxiety around food scarcity. How does food insecurity affect physical and mental health?
Food insecurity plays a critical role in wellness and it’s all a chain reaction. If you don’t have access to nutritious meals or you’re not eating enough, your physical wellness takes a toll. If you’re worried about where your next meal will come from, that type of stress is intense and overpowering. This kind of long-term stress can lead to lasting anxiety which wreaks havoc on your physical health. Food access is a basic need. If your basic needs aren’t being met, it’s nearly impossible to think about anything else.
How did your background as an Ecuadorian immigrant and former after-school care student help you connect with the communities you serve?
My experience as an immigrant informs my response to our families. My parents didn’t speak English when we came to Miami. I myself was in ESOL (now called ELL) classes as a kid. Because I was in after-school care and summer-school classes, my mom was able to work. Family-first values and trying to hang on to our traditions were instilled in me since day one. I watched my family struggle, then succeed, then struggle again after the market crashed post 9/11. I see this in the communities we serve now and it helps me relate to the needs of our families. When I see Abuelitas come pick up their granddaughters from our program, that’s me. I was that little girl. That’s why we work hard to offer access to community resources from collaborating with partners on topics like: How To Obtain Citizenship, Immigrant Rights, Affordable Housing Workshops and English classes for adults. We encourage our teachers to teach a curriculum that celebrates culture, we lean into our bilingualism and we coordinate events for the whole family, like our Holiday Showcases complete with arroz imperial and pastelitos.
At Read2Succeed, you led and supervise a team of certified teachers to ensure your community programs are providing quality education. What does providing quality education mean to you?
Quality education is anything that makes a child feel seen, heard and understood. It’s teaching lessons that help a child grow socio-emotionally in addition to core academic skills. Activities that push a child to use their imagination, work in teams, and draw from their own experiences–that’s the goal.
What led you to become a passionate advocate for mental health and socioemotional learning?
I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and although I’ve shown symptoms since I was 5, my family didn’t understand what it was. There’s still a major stigma around getting therapy, especially in families of color. Once I was an adult, I got the support I needed and understood that anxiety had shown up in my childhood all along. The teachers who showed me support and created safe spaces for me to explore and question were heroes. They were the foundation and gateway to therapy and healing for me. The more we can normalize talking about feelings and the experiences that shape us, the closer we can get to raising kids who are healthy, happy and whole.
What are some of the biggest challenges that arise when leading a non-profit?
it’s so true that in nonprofit, you wear every hat! I have a hat in every color, shape, size and several with glitter! Aside from that, one of our biggest challenges has been getting community support from young generations. Our city isn’t exactly known for activism like other places in the US but I believe in the 305. I know that it’s just a matter of awareness. The more people find out about nonprofits like ours, the more champions and ambassadors will jump in and align with our cause!
What is the most rewarding part of leading a non-profit?
At the end of the night when I’m lying in bed and thinking about my day, not a night goes by where I question if I made a difference. Being able to provide some kind of relief, comfort, encouragement or hope, that’s what I live for, and leading a nonprofit lets me achieve it.
What are two of your proudest accomplishments?
Getting certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid and this summer–being able to feed families in times of crisis has been something I’ll never forget.
How has the quarantine been going for you?
Surprisingly a time of growth! Lots of walks and biking to keep my anxiety in check and tons of painting. My at-home art studio is bursting with art!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, assuming the pandemic was over, where would you go?
Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It’s been calling me with all its temples and majestic sunrises.