Combating COVID-19: Feeding our community one family at a time

Assess and adapt. That’s the story we continue hearing from our Affiliates on the ground. They are not only moving towards offering their programs and services online, but they have been in constant contact with the populations they serve in order to evaluate their needs and offer solutions. The voices we hear from talk about loss and extreme hardships, and yet we also hear and see their resilience and power to readjust. Today, we bring you the stories of these three organizations in one of the hardest hit states in the country, New York, who have been working hard to help their clients make sure that they can put food on the table for themselves and their families.

Families from our Affiliate DAS receive supermarket gift cards.

By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

This week, the House of Representatives introduced the HEROES Act, a new relief bill aimed at tackling the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. The House is set to vote on it today, which will offer our community much needed relief when it comes to our health, economic well-being, and ability to put food on the table.

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Just a month ago, NBC New York reported how hundreds of New Yorkers were waiting in line, sometimes for almost six hours, to get food from pop up food pantries established by Catholic Charities. Almost 8,000 meals were delivered, according to Richard Slizeski from Mission of Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens: “It’s not going to be enough, but we do what we can,” he said in the report.

As this report showed, and as we hear from our Affiliates, the need is great, and every effort helps to support a family in need. As we continue to wait for relief for our community, these three UnidosUS Affiliates from New York tell us what they’re doing right now to support Latinos and immigrants in their local communities.


“We are here for you” is the message NHS of Queens’s website opens with, and their new program “Adopt a Family: Help Our Neighbors Initiative” proves that. “We may not be able to save the world, but we may be able to help one family at a time,” says Yoselin Genao-Estrella, NHS of Queens Executive Director.

Through the “Adopt a Family” initiative, they persevere with their motto of “Empowering Our Neighbors. Stabilizing Our Communities.” NHS of Queens decided to establish this effort because of the urgent need of feeding families that wouldn’t otherwise be able to get food, since they would not normally qualify for government programs.

“Many of our neighbors, especially immigrants, have lost their jobs and do not have access to safety net programs. These hard-working  immigrants are single mothers, are not eligible to receive unemployment and do not qualify for stimulus programs,” NHS of Queens writes in their appeal. “The reality that families are going hungry at this most difficult time is just heartbreaking.”

Their ask is to adopt a family during this time of crisis, because even with the many community organizations helping to cover this need, “the current demand far exceeds the resources currently available,” NHS of Queens explains. They also have partnered with local supermarkets who make the deliveries, supporting the local economy by creating and preserving jobs.

A family from NHS of Queens received this food box and thanked them for their support.


“I don’t think the rest of the country really knows what our city and communities have been through and are still going through,” Michelle Neugebauer, Executive Director of UnidosUS Affiliate Cypress Hills in Brooklyn, New York, explains.

This organization has focused their current endeavors to support the hurting population they serve, giving our community $15,000 in supermarket gift cards, and helping enroll eligible families in SNAP and in New York City’s meal programs.

INFOGRAPHIC: How SNAP Benefits Our Families and the Economy

Just as NHS of Queens showed as well, partnerships have also deemed needed, and have flourished at this time. Neugebauer tells us about their collaboration with food pantries to help them stock the most demanded items: “We are partnering with three church food pantries, buying them more food and Personal Protective Equipment.”

As we wait for the passage of the HEROES Act, which does include cash assistance to individuals paying their taxes with an ITIN number, Neugebauer shares how their community’s undocumented families “are suffering disproportionately.” The new HEROES Act might potentially help ease this distress many of our families are living, families who, as UnidosUS has stated all throughout this pandemic, are also in many cases essential workers stepping up for our country at this time of crisis.


People waiting to get help at Dominico-American Society of Queens.

There is an added challenge both for our Affiliates Dominico-American Society of Queens (DAS) and NHS of Queens: they are in the epicenter of the epicenter.

DAS is located in the neighborhood of Corona, in Queens, one of the four hardest hit neighborhoods with coronavirus cases in New York. Together, with Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights, more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus have been recorded in these neighborhoods, where the combined population is approximately 600,000.

Jose Tejeda, Executive Director of DAS and UnidosUS Northeast Affiliate Council Board Member, told us how donations of all sizes, from corporations and individuals, have been key to provide their families with much needed basic necessities, from food to cleaning supplies, through food baskets and supermarket gift cards: “We have been able to help 500 families in need per week since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“It is now when we see the true essence of collaboration and unity within our community to continue safeguarding them during this pandemic,” DAS shares in a post where they thank all those corporations and individuals stepping up to help their community.

This crisis is disproportionately affecting Latinos and communities of color, and there is a great need to support our families and the community-based organizations that are supporting them. UnidosUS, for example, has established our Esperanza/Hope Fund to provide emergency assistance to our community through our Affiliate Network. Please consider supporting these efforts today.

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