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News & Events

HDFS Grad Student Connects Families in Need with Local Farms' Produce

Mariela Quesada Centeno, SoHE’s Jane Davies Holloway Graduate Fellow and PhD student in Human Development and Family Studies, is addressing the exceptional economic impact felt by area Latinx and Indigenous families by connecting them with “resilience boxes” of purchased and donated produce from local farms. Centeno is the Cooperative Manager for local group Roots 4 Change, and she was one of five awardees of the UW Outstanding Women of Color Award last spring.

Learn more about her work in the press release from REAP Food Group, one of the organizations assisting in the project, below.

REAP Food Group • 306 E. Wilson St. #2W • Madison, WI 53703 • 608-310-7836
For immediate release
Contact: Helen Sarakinos, Executive Director, REAP Food Group, helens@reapfoodgroup.org, (608) 770-4732 or Mariela Quesada Centeno, Manager, Roots4Change Cooperative and PhD candidate Human Development & Family Studies, School of Human Ecology, UW Madison soporte@roots4change.coop, (608) 217-5982.
Date: April 9, 2020

REAP, Roots4Change, and Rooted Launch “Farms to Families Fund / Fondo de Granjas a Familias”

Partnership Program Serves Latino/Indigenous Families and Support Local Family Farms

Mariela Quesada Centeno, sitting in a red top
Mariela Quesada Centeno

REAP Food Group (REAP), Roots4Change Co-op (R4C), and Rooted just launched the “Farms to Families Fund/ Fondo de Granjas a Familias” initiative to work with regional family farms impacted by loss of wholesale customers to bring fresh, healthy, locally grown food to Madison-area Latino/Indigenous residents and families hard-hit by job loss, food insecurity, lack of access to social services, and federal anti-immigration provisions.

Together, REAP and R4C plan to purchase fresh food from local farms in the Farm Fresh Atlas network and minority farmers and distribute it to a network of 200 Latino/Indigenous families, many of whom work in the heavily impacted food service and hospitality industries.

This initiative provides home delivery of a weekly “resilience box” of fresh, nutritious, and locally grown food to serve up to 200 families (up to 1000 adults and children) identified as most vulnerable according to R4C’s screening process and informed by their on-the-ground work with families as community health workers and doulas. These boxes contain purchased and donated produce, and protein and grains from area farmers and initiatives including Artisan Grain Collaborative’s “Neighbor Loaves Program”. In partnership with Rooted, the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center will serve as host site for aggregating food and packing the weekly boxes. Community members who have experienced job loss due to the pandemic are paid to deliver the boxes to residents’ homes. Boxes contain printed information about food preparation, COVID-19, and health and support resources developed by Roots4Change to meet language and cultural communication needs.

Mariela Quesada Centeno, Roots4Change Cooperative Manager says, “Our Latino/Indigenous families are uniquely impacted by this crisis – they make up 40% of service workers in the county, and 94% of families with children fall below the poverty line (source). Together with compounding factors, including lack of information, social isolation and fears surrounding immigration status, it makes it so that they are among the least likely to seek help from established food and support programs.” Likewise, small farmers in our region, many of them young, female, and minority farmers, have seen their business impacted by the closure of farmers’ markets, institutions, and restaurants, and are struggling to break even.

“REAP and R4C see in this crisis an opportunity to respond in a way that benefits many,” states Helen Sarakinos, REAP Executive Director. “We are aiming to create maximum benefit for food-insecure neighbors who are the backbone of the food and service industry and for struggling farmers who serve our region.”

The initiative is launching a campaign to raise $25,000 to meet our goal to supply resilience boxes to 100 families weekly and support small family farms through July. All donations will be 100% directed toward this emergency initiative. Donations to the Farms to Families Fund / Fondo de Granjas a Familias can be made at reapfoodgroup.org/farms-to-families.

In the words of a resilience box recipient: “The impact that this pandemic brought to our lives plus the lack of resources, started with lack of work. Without work we cannot get money for the food for our children and to pay rent and the bills. I am very grateful first with God, and with you for all the help you are giving us, especially to bring the bread to our table. God bless you greatly.”

About the partner organizations

REAP Food Group works at the nexus of good food access for all and support of Wisconsin family farmers. Roots4Change Co-op is the first Latina/Indigenous cooperative in Dane County working on improving the wellbeing of women and mothers during their perinatal health, as well as families during their journey of parenthood, offering services that meet families where they are, in ways respecting and honoring people’s culture, language, and history. Rooted (which merged the strengths of Center for Resilient Cities and Community GroundWorks into a single organization) is committed to collaborations in food, land, and learning. Badger Rock Neighborhood Center (BRNC, operated by Rooted), serves as the focal point for the Rimrock Road and Moorland Road neighborhood, serving primarily low- and moderate-income individuals and families.