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Community: The Oasis in the Food Desert

One in three Latinos face hunger on a daily basis in the United States.   Not an issue we hear about much with the equally daunting news that Latinos are facing the highest rates of obesity in the country as well. The two are not unrelated, as discussed this week during new Austin, TX media outlet Latino Metro’s latest campaign and festival: Tacorama.

Partnering with Austin’s Capital Area Food Bank and the print publication: Latino Magazine, the 1st Annual Tacorama was created to help benefit the No Mas Hambre initiative.  No Mas Hambre is a grass roots multi platform initiative dedicated to raising awareness of hunger in the Latino community.

This past Tuesday, May 8, I attended a panel discussion titled “Latino Forum on Hunger” with speakers from major organizations in Central Texas dedicated to addressing hunger issues Texas such as the Catholic community center El Buen Samaritano, The Texas Hunger Initiative and a multi-purpose resource center Southwest Key. Each of the panelists were introduced by Latino Magazine Editor Alfredo Estrada and talked a little about how they have created programs to serve communities in Central Texas.

I was most interested by the talk about “Food Deserts” and their relationship to people not getting enough nutritious, fresh foods.  There are cities, and Austin is one of them, where large spacious areas exist with little access to grocery stores with healthy foods: a direct link to the hunger issue in the city.   Residents are resorting to grocery shopping at convenience stores with limited fresh foods and to add insult to injury, the grocery stores that do exist in these “food deserts” are more heavily stocked with processed foods while the produce section is slowly decreasing in size. 

The answer lies in strong partnerships with community outreach agencies said attending agencies.  Food banks are using community based organizations to reach needy, hungry audiences and to distribute healthy foods, comparing them to “ATM’s” of food.  Austin’s  Capital Area Food Bank provides  a mobile food truck, also, which feeds over 300 families a month to providing outreach services to get people in the community enrolled in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program most commonly referred to as “food stamps”.

I was very proud to see Latino leadership from Austin present and part of the dialogue of hunger. Groups like ours, Latinitas, others such as the National Latina woman’s network Las Comadres, college aid organization Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, and of course the Latino Metro and Latino Magazine Staff shared the experience of the Latino families they serve.

Tacorama continues through May 21th with various events around Austin including special menu items at select restaurants.  Proceeds go to the Capital Area Food Bank.

Samantha Rae Lopez

Latinitas Magazine

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