San Miguel de Allende is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site in central Mexico attracts millions of visitors every year. The economy, which relies heavily on tourism, was quickly shattered when the region came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels and restaurants shuttered, weddings postponed, flights cancelled, borders closed, public transportation halted, and household workers furloughed. Without safety nets, staggering job losses don’t take long to translate to hunger and deprivation.
According to a study by Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), the effects 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.
Feed the Hungry San Miguel’s Comida Para Familias
For 35 years, Feed the Hungry San Miguel has been dedicated to alleviating childhood hunger by providing hot, healthy meals every school day in the school kitchens they operate in 36 mostly rural communities. Every year, nearly one million meals are served.
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.
Thanks to established relationships with state and city government, school administrators, and other NGOs, Feed the Hungry was able to quickly pivot to providing food for entire families, launching Comida Para Familias. This emergency operation provides food and hygiene supplies to as many as 20,000 people, including the elderly and the disabled, who are struggling during the pandemic. Each package contains healthy, shelf-stable food to feed a family of five for two weeks, as well as soap and bleach.
Feed the Hungry staff and eight city workers who pack and deliver the supplies are equipped with masks, face shields, gloves, and disinfectant. The city is providing significant help, facilitating the coordination of packers, drivers, and transportation equipment to provide an efficient and speedy delivery of the food packages.
In the first 10 weeks of the operation, more than 15,000 pantries were distributed (5 tons per day). To respond to urgent requests for help from other NGOs and grassroots groups, arrangements were made to provide food pantries to them to distribute to their beneficiaries. Expanding Feed the Hungry’s outreach beyond the 36 school communities and 7 charities typically served.
Between late March and the end of June, food for an equivalent of 1,097,909 meals were distributed throughout the municipality. Without exaggeration, this continues to be a monumental task. By the end of August, the program will have provided food for nearly 2,500,000 meals, delivering 207,334 kilos (457,093 pounds) of ingredients to desperate families.
This is the “new normal” at Feed the Hungry. They plan to continue the Comida Para Familias operation, at a monthly cost of $100,000- $150,000 USD, as long as resources allow. Emergency funds are being rapidly depleted.
Schools in San Miguel de Allende are expected to reopen in mid-August. It is not known if FTH will be allowed to reopen the school kitchens at that time. Or how long until the parents will be back to work. Therefore, the organization will gear up to resume the school meals program. Running these two programs simultaneously will require not only adequate 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 communities. To learn more or make a donation, visit feedthehungrysma.org.