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Latino Unidos: How one Middle School Club is Helping Auburn Families in Need

The Latino Unidos club at Olympic Middle School has a long track record of helping the community. From Easter egg hunts, raising money for the local food bank, to selling candy bouquets for the Red Cross during the Australia wildfires- Latino Unidos members take great pride in sharing their culture while simultaneously lending a helping hand to their community and surrounding areas.

This year, thanks to the 20 middle school members of Latino Unidos, more than 40 families will be able to enjoy traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners this holiday season.

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ASD staff and Kiwanis Club members distribute holiday food boxes on Nov. 24 at Olympic MS. | Photo credit: Pilar Hunter

According to Feeding America, one in six Latino households in the United States struggles with hunger. More than 18% of Latino children are at risk of starvation, compared to 12% of non-Hispanic children. Current data indicates the City of Auburn’s population is approximately 13% Hispanic.

A promotional video from the Latino Unidos Club was posted on the Olympic Middle School Facebook page, sharing the club’s mission for their holiday food drive.

“With the pandemic and many people out of work, more people than ever are in need of assistance. We are reaching out to help support our Latino families in need. We would like to provide Latino families with food and spices specific to their culture,” shared Sarai Sanchez, Olympic Middle School student and co-president of Latino Unidos.

Pilar Hunter, the club’s Families Engagement Liasion and Latino Unidos advisor, said, “the contents of the box are all staples you would use to cook Latino food. Companies will donate turkeys and stuff, but the kids really wanted to be more thoughtful and mindful of who we are servicing in our community.”

The boxes are full of traditional Latino spices and products. The items were donated by Feeding El Pueblo, an organization that distributes culturally relevant food items to King County areas.

Co-creator of Feeding El Pueblo, Roxana Pardo Garcia, saw the need for food assistance and noticed the rising rate throughout many King County areas. Public Health Insider writes on their website, “[Garcia] was worried about the stigma associated with food banks, and she didn’t see many sites providing the ingredients she and her neighbors are used to using. Many families that live in the Highline area are Latinx and have cultural ties throughout the Americas and the Caribbean. So, partners at Alimentando El Pueblo started raising funds and determining how to source culturally relevant food in bulk to give to their neighbors.”

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Traditional Latino Foods are organized on tables at Olympic Middle School. Credit: Pilar Hunter

According to Sanchez, the need to help families during the COVID-19 pandemic was the club’s key motivator. “Food banks, they give food, but sometimes- especially if they come from a foreign country- they don’t know how to cook certain foods.” Sanchez said, “so we thought to partner up with Feeding El Pueblo to make boxes with Mexican ingredients to make food they are familiar with.”

“Roxana Pardo Garcia, co-creator of Feeding El Pueblo, was our inspiration,” said Hunter, “she donated the spices and $200 from her company, La Roxy Productions to get us started.”

Along with Feeding El Pueblo, many Auburn School District staff donated ingredients for the boxes, and the Auburn Valley Kiwanis Club utilized their ties to the Key Club to provided additional monetary and food donations.

The Bright Plumbing Company, a local business in Auburn, donated $1,000 toward creating food packages for the Winter Break.

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Auburn School District staff and Kiwanis members on Nov. 24 during food drive event. with The Bright Plumbing Co | Photo credit: Pilar Hunter

Auburn School District staff and Kiwanis club members helped distribute the Thanksgiving boxes on Nov. 24. A total of 44 families in need were will be fed by these boxes. Hunter explained that with COVID-19 restrictions, parents and students were unable to attend the event, but the parents are typically very active and participate whenever possible.

“What this club means to me is showing off my culture, where a lot of people may be embarrassed,” Sanchez said, “I’ve always liked to help people, and I like how Latinos Unidos is based on community service and helping the community and our school.”

The Christmas box distribution will be held on Dec. 18, from 11 am-1 pm. Latino families in need are encouraged to sign up by emailing [email protected], regardless if they have students enrolled at Olympic Middle School.

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