Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Amherst announces program to improve Latino residents’ food access

$54,000 in extra community services money will fund the nine-month program
Collegian File Photo

Amherst is moving forward with the funding of a $54,000 project to improve food accessibility for its Latino community, following several months of Town Meeting deliberations about how to allocate an extra $60,000 of community services money.

From March until December, surveys will be distributed among native Spanish-speaking residents to evaluate knowledge of free and low-cost food sources, as well as barriers between these resources and the Latino community. This data will be used to build on existing outreach measures, as well as formulate new, bilingual outreach materials.

Amherst Survival Center, which offered the proposal, is searching for a part-time outreach worker who will act as a liaison between the ASC and the town’s Latino community. Once the position is filled, according to ASC executive director Mindy Domb, the project will officially begin.

“[This] is an incredible opportunity that supports our mission to connect people to food and our goal to better understand challenges our neighbors face in accessing food,” said Domb, who has served as executive director of the ASC since June 2013.

“The grant and the project will not only benefit the community, it will benefit the Amherst Survival Center as we not only connect to the Latinx community, but learn from their experiences in ways that can support them in particular and the larger community going forward.”

Julie Federman, the health director for the town of Amherst, will work directly with Domb to organize the program in the coming months. One of the town’s main reasons for initiating the program, according to Federman, was the fact that nearly half of its incoming public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch. This, along with the nearly 40 percent increase in Amherst’s Latino population since the year 2000 and the discrepancies in the town’s current outreach measures, justified using the extra money to take action.

“Basically half of our families are struggling to make ends meet, and of course, that always involves access to food,” said Federman. “So we know a lot of our families are struggling. We know we have some pretty great food programs in Amherst, but we also know that very little of what exists in our community is translated or targeted toward our Latino population.”

Domb expressed the ASC’s excitement to launch the effort as a byproduct of its commitment to improving food and nutrition access for the entire community. While the ASC already offers daily food and wellness services at its 138 Sunderland road headquarters, this project will act to increase the organization’s exposure to and trust within underserved parts of Amherst.

Federman said the ASC’s history as a social services provider in Amherst made the decision to choose its proposal a relatively easy one.

“The Amherst Survival Center is really well-positioned to do this work,” Federman said. “They do a lot of work with food access, and they’ve been a source of outreach and community assistance in the town of Amherst for a long time now.”

Federman added, “We’re excited to work alongside them to improve our community’s access to the simplest of resources at a time when we fear many are not properly exposed to the great services that the town offers.”

Domb echoed this sentiment, saying that “as partners, [the town office and the ASC] will work together to develop a program that meets our shared goals, to share information learned and to make our community stronger.”

Henry Brechter can be reach at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @Hbrechter.

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