October 3, 2023
Last month began the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The observation started in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15.
This month allows all of our distinct cultures to celebrate our identity and who we are in this diverse country, and as President Biden said in a Proclamation this month, “reaffirm that diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths.” It acknowledges the contributions, strengths, and insights of Latinx writers, scientists, soldiers, doctors, entrepreneurs, academics, farmers, and leaders in labor and government. It is also significant as it marks the independence of many Latin American countries from the imperialist and colonialist power of Spain.
This recognition also allows us, members of this community, to educate others that we are made up of different people groups that have all come together in these United States. While we may be under a homogenous and monolithic label that seeks to culturally and politically represent an entire continent, we acknowledge that every single country and every single community has its own history.
Many of us do not identify with the labels Hispanic, Latina/o, Latinx, or Latine, and there is an ongoing conversation on the best ways to describe our community — a community that is still dealing with the effects of both U.S. and other nations’ imperialism, the transatlantic slave trade, and trying to elevate the Indigenous, Black, and other voices that have been erased from “Latinidad.”
During this celebration, it is important to note the disparity that the COVID-19 pandemic and hunger have had on this community. Latinx and Black communities were disproportionately impacted during the pandemic, as hunger rose despite federal pandemic aid.
It is also important to note the amazing Latinx advocates across the country who are leading the charge to end hunger and poverty.
The following are 12 advocates we want to highlight.
- Anna Almanza serves as the Director of Policy & SNAP Outreach for Food Bank Council of Michigan (FBCM). In this role, Anna leads both FBCM’s state and federal policy agenda to address hunger and food insecurity, as well as oversees FBCM’s SNAP Outreach efforts to increase access to food assistance in Michigan. Anna began her career in public health, with a passion for advancing racial and health equity, social justice, and addressing Social Determinants of Health. For more than a decade, she advocated for and alongside the individuals and families she worked with and learned firsthand how systems and policies can impact a person’s ability to access resources, supports, and services needed to thrive. Anna believes that policies and programs should be centered in the lived experience and expertise of those directly impacted by them. Anna also provides leadership for the Michigan Alliance to Stop Hunger (MASH) and serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA).
- Minerva Delgado is the director of Coalitions & Advocacy at the Alliance to End Hunger. She has 30 years of experience working to end hunger and poverty. As an experienced policy analyst, organizer, and program manager, she has held senior positions in government, civil rights, and anti-poverty organizations. A desire for social and economic justice is the driving force behind Delgado’s work. She is the author of UnidosUS’ 2015 Profiles of Latino Health: A Closer Look at Child Nutrition. Prior to joining the Alliance, she was the Executive Director of Manna Food Center.
- Jake Garcia is the Public Policy Manager for Northwest Harvest, Washington’s statewide food justice organization. He hails from Vancouver, WA where he cut his teeth organizing farmers and farmworkers for equitable land-use policy and working for various state and local political campaigns. Now, Jake spends his time lobbying for food security and developing public policy to reduce poverty. His work in Washington State has included co-designing policy solutions to barriers to public benefits access.
- Alejandra Gepp, Senior Director for Health Programs at UnidosUS. She is an accomplished and experienced leader in health equity, especially addressing the impact of the social determinants of health in food security and food access. She led/co-led the UnidosUS’s Comprando Rico y Sano program for over nine years–a national program that builds the capacity of community-based organizations (CBOs) to increase food security among Latinos by equipping their promotores de salud (community health workers) with training and resources to provide culturally responsive nutrition education and information and enrollment assistance into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Ms Gepp currently spearheads new initiatives and stakeholder engagement that help advance UnidosUS Health programs, and the organization’s priorities through strategy and implementation, including program development and monitoring, learning, collaboration across teams, and program evaluation.
- Barbie Izquierdo is the director of advocacy, Neighbors Engagement, at Feeding America and founder of Community Driven Consulting LLC. For more than a decade, she has dedicated her life to fighting the exploitation of people with lived experience who have been affected by public policy. She has served as a global, bilingual spokesperson, speaking at the White House under the Obama-Biden administration on behalf of Witnesses to Hunger. As an Afro-Latina born and raised in North Philadelphia, Izquierdo felt the impacts of food insecurity and other social justice issues firsthand and is now an advocate, organizer, and consultant providing technical support regarding the engagement and inclusion of people with lived experience. In 2022, she was awarded the 2022 Citizen Prize by Global Citizen, which celebrates remarkable changemakers who are taking exceptional actions to end extreme poverty now.
- Laura Martinez a recent MPS Georgetown Graduate has utilized her lived experience as an immigrant to inform and shape strategic approached to eliminating hunger. She has successfully raised public awareness about hunger-related issues affecting college students on a local and national level. She has aimed to combat prejudice and ignorance surrounding hunger, and has participated in campaigns, public forums, and educational workshops. She has fought for equitable access to nutritious foods, improving and protecting SNAP, and sustainable agriculture with legislators, local governments, and other stakeholders.
- Nancy Miranda is the associate director of Benefits Access Unit at the Food Bank for New York City. She oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Tiered Engagement Network program. She chairs the NYC SNAP Task Force and collaborates with public and private anti-hunger organizations to improve access to SNAP benefits for New Yorkers with low incomes. She loves fighting hunger and poverty in New York City, the city she loves.
- Angeles Nelson is a policy advocate at Nourish California. She specializes in advancing state policy that improves students’ access to healthy school meals and increases food access for immigrant Californians. Toward that effort, she co-leads the Meals Count Team to develop resources, break down barriers, and identify potential state policy solutions to expand universal meal programs in California. Angeles also conducts federal advocacy to preserve, protect, and improve access to SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. She serves as a liaison to Spanish-speaking communities and media organizations to uplift immigrants’ voices and to advance mutual priorities.
- Claudia Quintero is an esteemed legal scholar at the Western New England School of Law and an advocate for social justice and public interest advocacy. She provides direct legal advocacy to farmworkers across Massachusetts, representing them in immigration, wage and hour claims, housing, family, and benefits cases through her work at Central West Justice Center where she has led the statewide Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Project. She leads the Fairness for Farmworkers Coalition, which advocates for legislation that would entitle farmworkers to overtime pay and minimum wage.
- Carlos Rodriguez, a first-generation Latino from the South Bronx, understands poverty and has a profound appreciation for human service impact. His professional efforts were recognized with the Award of Excellence from Associations Advance America, the Victory Against Hunger Awards and the Award for Excellence from Feeding America. In 2011 Carlos was the recipient of LATINO Magazine’s RAYOS Award, “rays of light.” In 2022 CFBNJ was a NJBIZ finalist for best large nonprofit Business of the year. Carlos spoke at the White House Conversation on Child Hunger and testified before House and Senate Committee Hearings as well as across state legislatures to strengthen and protect policies and programs. An innovator through collaboration, he co-created the B.E.A.T. Center, in partnership with the JBJ Soul Foundation and a grassroots pantry. His leadership during super storm Sandy, the COVID pandemic and numerous disasters reinforced the importance of lived expertise in developing strategic plans and responses to human service problems.
- Lilian Rodriguez Lopez is a policy advocate and consultant. She has been leading the effort to make SNAP available for Puerto Rico. She has served as president of the Hispanic Federation and was recognized by People en Español as one of the 25 Most Powerful Hispanic Women in the country in 2010 and as one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in the country in 2009. She currently serves on the Board for the Latino Community Fund of Georgia, and is Chair of the Board of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. She is a former chair of the Board of Business Advisors for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators.
- Christopher Sanchez is a public benefits and access to justice advocate focusing on CalFresh and other nutrition issues, including federal advocacy at the Western Center on Law and Poverty. He also works on consumer issues and government policies that lead to debt and poverty. He previously worked for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, and prior to that, for Assembly Members Sharon Quirk-Silva and Patty Lopez.