Serving in Spanish-Speaking Communities

Serving in Spanish-Speaking Communities

From the deserts of New Mexico to the old mill towns of Massachusetts, FoodCorps serves Spanish-speaking communities across the country. Our AmeriCorps members are providing culturally relevant nutrition and garden lessons, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables in schools, and supporting efforts to celebrate traditional food knowledge.

As an extension of our commitment to equity and inclusion, we help train and support emerging Hispanic and Latino/a leaders who have a passion for health equity, food, agriculture, and education. By placing Spanish-speaking and Latino service members in Spanish-speaking and Latino communities, FoodCorps strives to empower individuals and communities to shape their relationship with food and health.

Stories of Service

Catherine Yanez, FoodCorps alumnaPaso Del Norte, New Mexico

La Semilla Food Center builds a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso del Norte region of southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. Catherine Marlene Yanez, who grew up in the region, became a FoodCorps service member with La Semilla after learning of health problems affecting herself, her family and her Mexican American community. Armed with fresh beans, peppers, and cucumbers, Catherine helped students overcome their skepticism of vegetables that had just been pulled from the ground. She is now one of two FoodCorps alumni who are employed by La Semilla, continuing to help grow a healthier next generation in her community.

Springdale, Arkansas

2014-04 F2C - FoodTalks Cecila Hernandez6 out of every 7 students at Bayyari Elementary School are English Language Learners (ELL), primarily Spanish speakers. FoodCorps alumna Cecilia Hernandez spoke Spanish every day of her service, an ability which initially surprised students not used to Spanish-speaking school staff. She was able to connect with Latino family groups, who took ownership of the school garden. Best of all, Cecilia showed students that a culture of health was not distinct from their own culture.  Says Cecilia:

My background helped me take traditional Hispanic dishes kids were used to and make them healthier (without compromising flavor or disrespecting culture) because I grew up eating the same dishes.

RG14-Kids-Cooking-Learning-Eating-273_CROPPED-1024x416New Brunswick, New Jersey

Thalya “Tilly” Reyes is a born and raised Jersey girl. She’s also a first-generation American of Dominican descent, which she used to her advantage as a FoodCorps service member at Greater Brunswick Charter School. She knew kale alone wouldn’t cut it with a student body that is over 70% Latino, so she cooked up Cuban-style rice and beans. Happy and full of tomatoes and bell peppers, the kids loved the brown rice spin on a Latino classic. She went deeper than just a dish though, by building relationships with groups like the Puerto Rican Action Board and helping to revitalize a local children’s garden as well as rename it Tierra de Chicos, Land of Kids.

Holyoke, Massachusetts

Holyoke MAIn the Flats neighborhood of Holyoke, Spanish and English intermix frequently. That’s because the town has the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans living on the United States mainland. Reflecting this demographic, the staff of Nuestras Raices—the FoodCorps service site in town—is primarily Latino. The nationally-recognized organization is a leader in cultural food justice and is helping to increase the availability of culturally preferable foods in local schools. Current Service Member Olivia Biller is harvesting gandules (pigeon peas) with kids from the school garden, handing out cherry tomatoes like candy, and talking to parents about the foods they like to cook up at home.