As part of the See What’s Needed Now series, PCF CEO Duggan Cooley interviewed Jaclyn Boland of the Hispanic Outreach Center to learn how this nonprofit organization is feeding the hungry in our community.
The Hispanic Outreach Center’s services focus on strengthening and supporting the Hispanic families of Pinellas County by ensuring their basic needs are met. From health care, mental health, and legal services to student support, the HOC is a beacon to the Hispanic community.
Duggan: Hi, I’m Duggan Cooley, CEO of the Pinellas Community Foundation, and this is “See What’s Needed Now.”
Duggan: Earlier in 2021, PCF established the Needed Now Fund to help address the greatest needs in our community coming out of the pandemic. One of the ongoing concerns that we have is about food insecurity in our community.
Duggan: Today, we’re going to talk to Jaclyn Boland of the Hispanic Outreach Center to find out more ways that our community is addressing hunger and the issues of food insecurity.
Duggan: Thank you for being with me, Jaclyn.
Duggan: First off, can you tell us a little bit about the impact of hunger and food insecurity here in Pinellas County?
Jaclyn: Sure. At the Hispanic Outreach Center, we focus on the Hispanic children and families. Definitely, what we know and what we see is that they’re more at risk of being food insecure, a lot of that is due to language, cultural barriers as well as even fear for taking part of government benefits due to immigration status.
Jaclyn: What we see is the link between food and access to transportation, access to jobs. Especially during the pandemic, the Hispanic community was hit very hard with loss of work and income because a lot of families work in the hospitality industry in restaurants and hotels. We saw that impact directly relating to how much food they could buy and put on their table.
Duggan: The Hispanic Outreach Center has been a partner of Pinellas Community Foundation for quite a while and we’re very proud to support the work that you do.
Duggan: Can you tell us a little bit more about what you all are doing to address the issue of food insecurity for our Hispanic community?
Jaclyn: Yes. The main way that we do that is through a food pantry that we have at Oak Grove Middle School. The food pantry grew out of one of our staff realizing that one student every day was taking the snack and putting it in his book bag and not eating it, and [the staff] asking, “Why? What do you? What’s going on?” They were taking and saving that food to share with their siblings at home.
Jaclyn: That was when we decided, OK, we need to address this and have kids have snacks, and then know that there’s going to be food at home for them to eat later.
Jaclyn: We grew a food pantry that now serves up to 150 students every month where they go and shop and walk around and select food that is culturally appropriate to them, and what they like to eat, and what they know their parents would like to cook.
Jaclyn: During the pandemic, of course, we weren’t able to be on campus. We were able to shift and provide a drive-thru pantry for a year and a half at the Hispanic Outreach Center that serves over 150 families every month with food through the drive-thru.
Duggan: That’s incredible! Thank you very much for all the things that you do to help make our community stronger, especially the work that you do for our Hispanic community.
Duggan: There are many things that are done beyond addressing the issue of food insecurity through the Hispanic Outreach Center. Can you tell us some of the other ways that you help make our community stronger?
Jaclyn: Yes. As you said, it’s beyond food. When a family comes in needing food, we usually find that there’s many other challenges that they face.
One thing that we really focus on is strengthening family. We work with the parents and with the students, making sure that they have their basic needs met. That is healthcare, mental health services, legal services, immigration services that they may need … and of course, focusing on students and making sure that they’re successful in the classroom and beyond, really making sure that they’re active and engaged in their community, providing them with volunteer opportunities to get out and involved.
Duggan: Thank you very much!
Duggan: It’s incredible the work that is done through our Hispanic Outreach Center here in Clearwater and throughout Pinellas County. We appreciate your commitment to addressing the issues that face our Hispanic community.
Duggan: When one family is made stronger, we’re all made stronger. We appreciate all that you do to make our community a better place for our residents.
Duggan: I thank Jaclyn Boland for joining us today from the Hispanic Outreach Center, our CEO of our Hispanic Outreach Center. This is “See What’s Needed Now.”
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