Food Justice is Social Justice: Latino Community Center Empowers, Advocates With, and Celebrates Latinos in Allegheny County
By Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
On Monday, July 27 we launched our Food Justice is Social Justice campaign. The goal of this initiative is to create awareness about social inequality, while educating our supporters in southwestern PA of numerous organizations in the region that are focused on ending racism and creating equality for all. The collaborative effort of the Food Bank and these organizations is focused on all digital platforms.
Since the launch of this campaign, we have highlighted the great work of 1Hood Media, Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP) and the YWCA Center for Race & Gender Equity on our website homepage and social media channels.
We are delighted to continue to share the voice of community organizations in our region. Today, we welcome the Latino Community Center. This wonderful organization is working to empower, advocate with and celebrate Latino’s in Allegheny County. The Latino Community Center focuses its work in two main areas: family services and education.
I am pleased to share the message below from Rosamaria Cristello, executive director of the Latino Community Center.
President & CEO
Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Empowering, Advocating With, and Celebrating Latinos in Allegheny County
The Latino Community Center (LCC) empowers, advocates with, and celebrates Latinos in Allegheny County, regardless of immigration status. Most of the children, youth, and families we help to empower and advocate with are families that have at least one family member who is undocumented. These are strong and brave families who know firsthand the journey of coming to a new country in pursuit of a better life for their children. This means that families in our community are living in fear of being separated from at least one loved one, yet trust that life here in Pittsburgh will provide for a safer place to raise their children . It also means that due to status and language barriers, most of the families we work with have limited to no access to resources and opportunities that should be available to all children, youth, and families living and growing up in our region.
This is where LCC comes in. Much of our work is in ensuring our families have equal and equitable access to basic needs and opportunities others have access to; for example access to food, housing, healthcare, education. This is especially true in day-to-day scenarios, but also during global pandemics.
COVID-19 hit many of us in ways we never imagined. For our Latino community, COVID-19 hit our families especially hard. When the seriousness of the pandemic hit in March, concerned parents were calling us not understanding what was happening– because all of the information was in English. When the COVID relief finally went out, we soon realized our families did not qualify for this relief because of their immigration status. When the schools started to announce plans for virtual learning, our families were lost not knowing what was happening, and furthermore worried they did not have the technology or the internet for their kids to connect to their classrooms. The fear of getting COVID for our families is terrifying, since most do not qualify for health insurance.
Since March, LCC has been working tirelessly to pivot programming and services to meet the overwhelming emergency needs of families hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Crises like COVID-19 exacerbate our families’ inability to access basic needs and services, save money, store food and essentials for emergencies, and care for small children and elderly family members. As a result, the 300+ families served by LCC have turned to us for help with:
- Food Security – LCC has seen a dramatic increase in the number of our families experiencing food insecurity. Most of our families are experiencing financial hardship as a result of job loss and are not able to purchase an adequate food supply for their homes.
- Housing Security & Rental Assistance – Many families are facing eviction and inability to pay their utility costs for the next several months due to job and income loss. Although most of our families pay taxes, because of their immigration status, they will not qualify for federal aid packages and public assistance programs.
- Internet Access and Virtual Education Support – School districts have provided families with technology to start the virtual school year, but most of LCC’s families did not have internet access in the home. Additionally, many families struggle with navigating technology using help resources that are only provided in English. As a result, LCC has hired additional education support staff to help families with navigating the virtual school year and keeping students engaged in the virtual classroom.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need for LCC’s programs and services will grow exponentially. LCC has relied on the support of our community to get through these difficult months and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead. There are many ways individuals can support our ongoing work:
- Stay informed! Sign up for LCC’s newsletter at the bottom of our homepage and stay up-to-date on the latest news.
- Volunteer! Tutor a student in our after school program or help LCC deliver emergency food baskets to families each week. There are many virtual and socially distant opportunities to be involved in our work in the coming weeks.
- Donate! Support the work of LCC by making your gift online today here.
At the core of LCC’s work is the belief that every child, regardless of where their parents were born or where they themselves were born, has the right to live a life of happiness and the ability to plan for a bright future. LCC understands that, in order to fully support the child, we must holistically support the family unit as a whole. It is through this strategic framework that LCC provides a continuum of support to Latino children, youth, and families in our region that includes both educational programming for all ages and family services support. More information about LCC’s programs can be found at www.latinocommunitycenter.org.
The LCC and the community we work with envision a Pittsburgh community in which all Latinos are valued and have equal and equitable access to the resources and opportunities needed to thrive. I strongly believe we will get there. But it will take all of us to get to this place.
The LCC remains grateful to partners like the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank for helping us to amplify the voices and needs of our Latino community. Together, we are ensuring all families will thrive in Pittsburgh.