Diversity Richmond plans to hold a food drive, with the goal of providing 500 Latino families with food for a week. Helping Hands
Diversity Richmond plans to hold a food drive, with the goal of providing 500 Latino families with food for a week.

Diversity Richmond wants to provide at least 500 families with a week’s worth of food

RICHMOND– Earlier this year, Diversity Richmond saw a need. The COVID-19 shutdowns hit hundreds of Latino families in the region, to the point some couldn’t afford to pay for groceries. That’s where the non-profit stepped in, holding a food drive in July. That first event helped more than 500 families. The hunger relief group Feed More also got involved, donating more than 8,000 pounds of fresh produce. But COVID-19 didn’t go away after that first drive and neither did the need. As a result, Diversity Richmond plans to do it again.

The non-profit is organizing a Viva! RVA Food Drive, which aims to help 500 local Latino families receive a week’s worth of groceries. Right now, the group is accepting monetary donations. That money will go towards buying fresh foods and other necessities for families in need.

“After the first food drive, we got a lot of awareness through the media,” Raul Cantu, event coordinator for Diversity Richmond, said. “A lot of people kept making donations. The holidays are coming up soon and things weren’t getting any better. So we decided to accept those donations and host another food drive. That’s why we’re calling it Viva! RVA Dos.”

Prior to the food drive, the organization hosted free COVID-19 testing. Cantu, after a few events, noticed the sheer number of Hispanics and Latinos who would show up. 

That’s when he knew something more had to be done.

“We were hosting free testing events when we noticed a lot of the Latinos were the ones that were coming through here,” said Cantu. “After talking to them and hearing their stories, we realized that there was a greater need outside providing free COVID tests. There was also a need for food.”

Latino Communities and COVID-19

COVID-19 hit Latino and Hispanic communities harder than any other demographic in the nation.

Latinos and Hispanics only make up 9.8% of Virginia’s population. Yet, in terms of COVID-19 infections, they make up almost 25%. Earlier in the year, that number was even higher in Virginia, at nearly 45%.

But it’s not only infection rates where these numbers are sky high. Unemployment rates in Hispanic communities are on the rise as well.  According to Pew Research, the unemployment rate among Hispanics is higher now than it was in the Great Recession. In May, six out of 10 Latinos reported living in a household that experienced job loss or pay cuts because of COVID-19.

“A lot of the people we see are unemployed and have kids home from school. The food drive has created a big impact on them being able to afford simple necessities of life, primarily groceries to feed their families,” said Cantu.

But why has the virus done so much damage to this community?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s a combination of multiple issues. First, Hispanics and Latinos are at greater risk because many are essential workers. That means they can’t stay home. Even with that “essential” title, many don’t have health insurance. As a result, they can’t access care when symptoms first show up.

Planning a Food Drive During COVID-19 

Organizing a food drive during a pandemic is not easy. But Cantu’s team has put safety measures in place to protect the recipients and volunteers.

Everyone involved in the drive will adhere to CDC guidelines. Volunteers will be required to wear masks. People attending the food drive will not need to get out of their vehicles. Volunteers will load the groceries into the trunks to minimize contact. Diversity Richmond will also sanitize the groceries’ packaging when it arrives.

And while Cantu realizes and appreciates that people want to donate food, the pandemic caused him to rethink that approach.

“We’d rather take money donations over food,” Cantu said. “Because of COVID, there’s a lot that we don’t know. We know that the food from our suppliers has been properly sanitized and ready for distribution.”

Diversity Richmond will accept donations until Sept. 27. Currently, the group is halfway towards its goal.

“If we could raise another $3,000, we could meet our goal again of feeding 500 families,” said Cantu.

The food drive will take place on Oct. 3 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 1407 Sherwood Ave. Food will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. No walkups or early admittance will be accepted.

Interested in donating or volunteering? Go to Diversity Richmond’s website for more information.