At the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley’s Food Pantry, food is meticulously organized on shelves like in a grocery store, with color-coded charts in each section to educate visitors about making healthy choices. The patrons may select from a variety of available items according to their preferences, including fruits and fresh vegetables, dry goods and canned food, meats, and household and personal hygiene supplies.
The HCLV had the forethought to stock an aisle with culturally relevant foods–funded through the Volunteer Services of St. Luke’s through internal fundraising–so Latino and Hispanic visitors have the ability to create meals with which they are familiar.
St. Luke’s has also been providing a steady stream of volunteers that have been able to help restock, clean and organize the shelves.
Dr. Kara Mascitti, St. Luke’s Chief Wellness Officer, organizes an annual Physician’s Family Day when the doctors bring their families to volunteer. They have completed many projects, including painting the pantry, packaging the food and organizing the shelves. Other St Luke’s volunteers have helped with restocking, cleaning and managing inventory to help keep the pantry running in seamless fashion.
The pantry is open five days a week to provide appointment-based services for eligible families and individuals from Northampton County. Once eligibility has been established, patrons are able to schedule a 30-minute window to “shop” when they have the freedom to choose the food they prefer to eat instead of being given a predetermined box of items they may not want or eat, creating less waste.
Volunteers and staff are available to help visitors choose and package their food selections, but also encourage the patrons who use the pantry three or more times to consider HCLV’s case management services that may better serve their needs.
In addition to providing a strong volunteer base, St. Luke’s led a multi-million-dollar effort to renovate the facility. The Network also provided new furnishings.
The St. Luke’s Community Health Department supported the Hispanic Center through staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic by lending crucial staff members to ensure that LVHC programs could remain open and operating throughout those challenging times.
Hector Rios, a new recipient of LVHC services, said, “As the prices of food go up, it gets harder and harder for us. We are very appreciative of the services here. We need this place, and they treat us with dignity and respect.”
As prices continue to rise, so does the number of recipients of LVHC services.
Lifting a community up requires strong, committed stakeholders. If you want to help support the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley’s food pantry by volunteering or donating, please contact the center at 610-868-7800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This local health content is brought to you by St. Luke’s University Health Network.