• Paola Juarez - FtH

    In the first 10 weeks of the Feed the Families Emergency Response operation, more than 180 tons of food were distributed to needy families in San Miguel de Allende, in central Mexico.

    SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, GTO, MEXICO — July 22, 2020 — For 35 years, Feed the Hungry San Miguel had been committed to improving the health and well-being of children in San Miguel de Allende. They do so through school meals, family nutrition education, and community development programs. Operating school kitchens in 36 mostly rural communities, nearly one million meals are served every year. When schools in Mexico closed in March, those operations ceased. But Feed the Hungry did not rest. Staff and board members immediately convened to address the dire situation that would soon be faced by families that had lost jobs, and by children who would no longer receive the critical nutrition provided by the school meals.

    Life in the Shadows of a Colonial Gem
    San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Mexico, is considered by many to be one of the best cities in the world. Approximately half of the population of 160,000 resides in the city of San Miguel; the remaining live in rural communities.

    The economy, which relies heavily on tourism, was quickly shattered when the region came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staggering job losses didn’t take long to translate to hunger and despair among the large percentage of residents who live below the poverty line.

    According to a study by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), the effect of the coronavirus on the economy has nearly doubled the number of Mexicans that have fallen into extreme poverty. Malnourished people are less resistant to the highly contagious virus, contributing to a much greater health crisis. 

    “In the countryside, where most of Feed the Hungry's school kitchens are located, the families have always lived 'hand-to-mouth.’ Then the situation turned desperate: they are far more scared of starvation than they are of the virus. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing we had a warehouse full of food – school meals that couldn’t be served – and there were people going to bed hungry,” says Al Kocourek, president of Feed the Hungry San Miguel.

    Feed the Families Emergency Response: A Quick Pivot to Address an Immediate Need

    Within a week of the school closings, Feed the Hungry had re-tooled their operations to provide food to the entire families of the children until schools are expected to reopen. They coordinated with their vendors, school administrators, and mothers in the communities they serve. The purchase, packaging, and delivery of essential supplies for the needy was quickly under way.

    The program provides food and hygiene supplies to 20,000 people who are struggling during the pandemic. Packages designed to feed a family of five, two meals a day, for 14 days, contain healthy, shelf-stable food, as well as soap and bleach. Face masks are also distributed.

    From the very beginning of the emergency, they have been packing and delivering approximately 2,000 bags of food (26 tons) every week, to 37 impoverished communities, as well as 7 charities that serve orphans, the elderly, and the disabled. Deliveries to the rural villages are a challenge due to poor road conditions.

    Requests poured in from other NGOs and good citizen groups, asking if the organization could help additional families that desperately needed aid. In response, the program was expanded to provide food packages for pick up and distribution by those groups.

    The Logistical Challenges

    It was a tremendous effort to reorganize from a school lunch program operated through school kitchens, to a large-scale food bag production system in their warehouse.“At times we worried that we would not be able to procure enough food to make at least 400 packages every day,“ recalls Olivia Muñiz Rodriguez, Meals Program Director.

    The operating staff all had their jobs completely transformed while also working under the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Strict safety protocols were instituted to minimize that risk. Volunteers who typically pack supplies for the school meals program have been replaced by workers from the municipality. The city government is providing help, providing packers, drivers, and trucks to augment Feed the Hungry’s resources. Mothers and local leaders in the school communities where Feed the Hungry usually provides school lunches helped identify the elderly and the extreme poor among their population, saving the organization time while planning and coordinating distribution of the food packages.

    The “New Normal”

    Without exaggeration, this continues to be a monumental task. By the end of August, the program will have provided food for nearly 5,000,000 meals, delivering 360,334 kilos (792,735 pounds) of ingredients to desperate families.

    “We see the impact to our communities, and the tears of gratitude on the faces of people who had not known where their next meal was coming from. These families now depend on our bi-weekly food deliveries, and knowing this gives meaning to all the hard work and risk involved in carrying out this plan,” says Trustee and Program Coordinator Joan Nagelkirk. 3r0t9l013nue8t17.jpg

    This is the "new normal" at Feed the Hungry San Miguel. It is not known how long until people will be back to work. Therefore, when schools reopen, the organization will gear up to resume the school meals program while also continuing the Feed the Families operation as long as necessary. Running these two programs simultaneously will require not only additional funding, but also ingenuity to address the logistical challenges, while keeping staff and volunteers safe.

    Because of the pandemic, Feed the Hungry is working harder than ever to help struggling families. They plan to continue the Feed the Families operation, at a monthly cost of $130,000 USD, as long as resources allow. To learn more or make a donation, visit feedthehungrysma.org
    Established in 1984, Feed the Hungry San Miguel, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) U.S. non-profit corporation guided by a dedicated Board of Trustees, supported by a small, professional staff and a corps of exceptional volunteers. Feed the Hungry San Miguel, Inc. raises funds and provides guidelines to its Mexican operating entity, Feed the Hungry A.C.


    Media inquiries:

    Paola Juárez
    Communications Manager, Feed the Hungry San Miguel

    Bilingual Website: feedthehungrysma.org

    Social Media:
    YouTube: FTHvideos.org
  • Paola Juarez - FtH
    On behalf of all the #Families who are receiving this Gift of food, THANK YOU for your kind Donations!

  • Paola Juarez - FtH
    A Thank You note from the Tolentino Muñoz family of Palo Colorado.
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