Chicago Alderman Collecting Donations for Texas Migrants

At least 650 asylum-seeking migrants have arrived in Chicago since August 31. With busloads of immigrants being transported from Texas, the city’s officials are seeking volunteers and donations to help the influx of people seeking sanctuary in the city.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot stated that the city is coordinating with local organizations, but that they will need help to support the migrants.

Chicago has set up a website for those who want to volunteer their time or donate items such as clothing, toiletries and other necessities.

“As a welcoming city, we know Chicagoans are ready to show their generosity and are looking for ways to support these individuals,” the city’s website states.

Many Chicagoans began collecting donations for the migrants, with some aldermanic offices designated as drop-off locations for donations.

Ald. Michael D. Rodriguez, 22nd Ward, has been collecting donations and transferring them to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and other community organizations.

Carlos Gamboa, the 22nd Ward’s Chief of Staff, said that as soon as they learned that the Governor of Texas was sending migrants to Chicago, they needed to act quickly to provide resources to their people.

“It’s unfair and unjust that the Governor of Texas is shipping them to multiple cities across the United States with absolutely no resources or a plan,� Gamboa said. “We will always help someone, regardless of their immigration status. We will treat everyone equally.�

“I think that many second, third, and even fourth generation Mexican-Americans are more aware of what is going on and want to make a difference by making it easier for immigrants to go through the process because they have family who have gone through the same suffering,� Gamboa added.

Rodriguez’s ward office is accessible from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at 2500 S. St. Louis Ave in Little Village. 

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward, added that when people donate to their ward, they are making a bigger difference in the community than they realize.

“It’s the most vulnerable communities doing the government’s job, which is a shame,â€� Sigcho-Lopez said. “It’s those who do not have much who help those who do not have anything, and we need support, and this needs to be the talk of Chicago, because not a single person who arrived on a bus deserves this.â€�

Local non-profits and community groups that focus on immigrant communities, such as The Resurrection Project, have also stepped in to help with donations.

Laura Mendoza, Immigration Organizer at The Resurrection Project, said they are there to help with anything from language interpretation to handing out essentials.

“We put together hygiene kits, which include items such as deodorant, shampoo, and hand sanitizer, as well as other basic necessities that people would require for themselves,â€� Mendoza said.  

“Helping them is important because they will become contributing members of our community,” Mendoza said. “We just need to give them that little push with donations to help them be steady and stable. Then they’ll be able to thrive as many other immigrants have in the past.â€�

While some organizations are accepting clothing and other essential items, The Resurrection Project only accepts monetary donations.

“We have a large team of volunteers working with the migrants to provide resources because we care,� Mendoza said. “We want to give them resources because they are important to the city of Chicago. They are human beings.�

A list of needed items can be found here.

“Chicagoans should donate because they [migrants] have nothing,â€� Gamboa said. “They didn’t ask to come here. All they want is a better life.â€�

Donations are also being collected by other members of City Council’s Latino Caucus

Donations can be dropped off at these Aldermanic Offices:

  • Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) – Ward Office, 10500 S. Ewing Ave.
  • Ald. George Cardenas (12th) – City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St.
  • Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) – Ward Office, 2242 S. Damen Ave.
  • Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) – Ward Office, 2511 W. Division St.
  • Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) – Ward Office, 3559 N. Milwaukee Ave.
  • Ald. Felix Cardona, Jr. (31st) – Ward Office, 4606 W. Diversey Ave.
  • Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd) – Ward Office, 3001 W. Irving Park Rd.
  • Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) – Ward Office, 2934 N. Milwaukee Ave., Unit C
  • Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) – Ward Office, 6560 N. Fullerton Ave., Suite 118-A
  • Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) – Ward Office, 5620 N. Western Ave.
  • City Clerk Anna Valencia – City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., 1st Floor


Cover Photo by Kiersten Reidford

Vanessa Lopez, Assistant News Editor of The DePaulia

Vanessa Lopez is an undergraduate journalism student with a minor in media and communication at DePaul University. She is The DePaulia’s Assistant News Wditor and NAHJ DePaul’s Membership Coordinator. Twitter: @v_lopez__

Publisher’s Note: You can read Lopez’s Spanish language version of Chicago Alderman Collecting Donations for Texas Migrants by clicking on Donde puedes ayudar a los inmigrantes llegando a Chicago.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

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Latino News Network and Be The Ones Announce Partnership

Latino News Network (LNN) and Be The Ones are proud to announce their partnership to help constituents be well informed and prepared to participate in down-ballot races (local & state races) this November. The multi-layered communication and education campaign equips voters with accessible, clear, factual information to better understand which positions are on the ballot and how these officials impact issues like reproductive justice and voting access. 

While 32 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the U.S., only 53.7% cast a ballot in 2020. Research shows lack of easy to understand and accessible information is a barrier to participation. Local civic & voter education is essential if we want to increase participation. 

State and local officials shape our lives. They make decisions impacting everything from kids’ education, immigration policies, expanding healthcare, and voter access. With 99% of elections this year being state & local positions, we have an opportunity to meet people where they are and help them see the value their vote has in their community. 

Be The Ones is a nonpartisan organization working to increase local civic participation through accessible education campaigns. This fall their work is centered around educating voters on 10 local & state positions through their bilingual Local Voters Guide & hosting Vote Local Day on Saturday, October 8th. 

“Be The Ones is thrilled to work alongside Latino News Network to help make sure the voices of our communities are heard in this very important election. We know voting is just one tool in our toolbox that impacts access, opportunity and freedom. While our work is currently focused on preparing folks for November, we look forward to expanding our partnership with Latino News Network as we continue to strengthen the Hispanic-Latino community’s participation in our democracy,â€�  says Cate Mayer, Founder & Director of Be The Ones.

Hugo Balta, Owner, and Publisher of LNN commented on the partnership, saying, “We’re excited to work with an organization that aims to equip voters with clear, factual information that will help them confidently elect the local leaders they want to represent them and their community. Our newsroom takes a collaborative approach to prioritize communities through solutions-focused reporting rather than problem-focused.�

This partnership is part of a project called Democracy Day, in which newsrooms across the country are shining a light on threats to democracy and what action is needed to protect it. At Rhode Island Latino News (RILN), as it is with all of our sister news outlets under the Latino News Network banner , we’re not neutral about democracy. It fuels our commitment to serve the public, our belief in empowering an active citizenry.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices LNN adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. LNN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

About LNN

The Latino News Network (LNN) oversees five independent statewide coverage, Hispanic-Latino editorial focus English language news and information websites in New England and the Midwest.

LNN’s mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

Learn more about our work:, Twitter: / Linkedin:

About Be The Ones

Be The Ones is a nonpartisan organization working to increase local civic participation through accessible education campaigns. We blend technology, community partnerships and storytelling to rally Americans to be more informed and ready to participate in local civic activities – from the ballot box to the pesky pothole down the street. 
Information and knowledge are power. When we provide information that’s easy to understand, engaging and relatable, constituents become actively invested in the future of our communities. Learn more about our work and join us: / Instagram: @LetsBeTheOnes  / Twitter: @LetsBeTheOnes

Cover Photo Courtesy: Dan Dennis on Unsplash

Latinos Don’t Benefit From The Economic Prosperity They Create

Latinos make solid and consistent contributions to Illinois’ population and labor force.

Were it not for Latinos, the state’s population and workforce would have contracted. The group contributed more than $97 billion to Chicago’s economy from 2010-2018, according to the recently released 2022 Chicago Metro Latino GDP Report.

The Forum is thrilled with the author’s details in outlining the Latino communities’ wealth-making success, driven by swift gains in human capital and a strong work ethic.

However, missing from the narrative is the Latino wealth paradox. The community continues to not benefit from the prosperity it creates.

To amplify, the data published by California Lutheran University and UCLA Health and funded by Bank of America are consistent with the Forum’s analysis of the U.S. Latino GDP.

The total economic output of Latinos in the United States was $2.6 trillion in 2018. If Latinos living in the U.S. were an independent country, the report finds that their GDP would be the eighth largest in the world. In addition, Illinois’ 2018 Latino GDP is $100.1 billion, larger than the entire economic output of the state of Hawaii. 

The importance of population growth for economic strength cannot be overstated. And it is Latinos whose numbers are among the most significant for ensuring that growth. In Illinois, for example, between 2010 and 2018, the Latino population grew annually by about 29,000, while there was an average annual decrease of about 20,000 non-Latinos. Moreover, 2020 census data shows continual Latino population growth nationally and in individual states, including Illinois. 

According to the 2022 Chicago Metro Latino GDP report, between 2010 and 2018, the number of Latinos in the Chicagoland area with higher education grew 2.5 times faster than non-Latinos. In addition, the Latino labor force rate averaged 4.6 percentage points higher than non-Latinos. 

All of that changed once the pandemic hit. Latinos, the racial/ethnic group most disproportionately impacted, shouldered the most COVID-caused disruptions to their socioeconomic conditions.

According to a July 2021 Pew Research report, almost half of Latinos said they or someone in their household had lost a job or wages since February 2020. The employment situation was complicated for Latinos, who were—and still are—overrepresented in jobs deemed essential (e.g., maintenance, retail, construction, and manufacturing) while simultaneously designated as high risk. 

At the same time, pandemic-induced job losses were most significant in labor sectors where Latinos are also disproportionately represented (e.g., personal care, childcare, and leisure and hospitality). As an early analysis by Latino Decisions showed, Latinos were the most likely not to have the required economic cushion to weather job loss. They found the average Latinos household has only about $600 in cash reserves. 

When it comes to housing, Latinos are overburdened with costs, and many are just one small emergency away from losing it all, as noted in last year’s Latino Policy Forum publication. 

 While the Forum joins others in celebrating the outcome of the 2022 Chicago Metro Latino GDP report, validating Latino economic empowerment, we raise concerns about a view that, while accurate, does not highlight the fact that the community is not getting their fair share of earnings from their contributions to the overall economic prosperity of cities, states, and nation. We look forward to updates of the report that include COID-19 years.

The pre-and post-pandemic socioeconomic conditions of Latinos remind us that we must ensure that special attention is given to the devastation that COVID has wreaked.

The Forum will continue to work with elected officials and policymakers to secure that resources directed at fixing what COVID has broken reflect the socioeconomic importance of Latinos and the severity of the damage COVID has done to them. 

While the 2022 jobs and economic data look promising – even Latinos, in large numbers, have returned to work – the reality is that Latinos have returned to low-wage jobs. They are working, but their wage does not reflect the ‘economic recovery’ that so many other groups are experiencing. As of the second quarter of 2022, among racial and ethnic groups, it is Latinos who have the lowest earned weekly income. 

The Forum will continue to advocate for equity, justice, and economic prosperity for the Latino community by focusing on the pillars of education, housing, and immigration for economic mobility.

After all, as illustrated by the report, imagine how much more economic growth Chicago, Illinois, and the country will enjoy once Latinos get total wealth equity.

Sylvia Puente is the President and CEO of the Latino Policy Forum, a nonprofit that works for equity, justice, and economic prosperity on behalf of Latinos in Chicago and Illinois through public-policy advocacy and analysis on issues including education, housing, and immigration.

Adding to her many accolades, Puente was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees on August 8, 2022.

Puente is frequently cited as an expert on Latino issues and has published numerous reports and articles that articulate the vital role they play in society. She is a recipient of the Ohtli Award, Mexico’s highest recognition of those serving the Mexican community outside of Mexico, and received an honorary PhD for her social justice work from Roosevelt University in 2021. She has been recognized by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.�

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Addressing Period Poverty

Period poverty is a global issue experienced by millions of people, especially houseless, low-income and Black and Brown communities. Still, so many are unaware of what this is. The stigmas surrounding menstruation, sexual health, and gender have all contributed to the mass dismissal of this topic as a health crisis, preventing many from recieving help.

In fact, periods are so stigmatized that many can’t even utter the word period or menstruation: it’s the cycle, that time of the month, Aunt Flo or so many other euphemisms that deflect from this naturally occurring bodily function. 

At Illinois Latino News and its sibling affiliates under the Latino News Network banner, we view our readers, you, as an extension of our newsroom. If journalism is a public service, you are our collaborators, our partners.

In covering this topic, we need your help. 

We want to know your experiences dealing with menstruation and/or period poverty to provide the most well-rounded, thorough coverage of this issue. In collecting this information, we hope to gain insight on how this issue affects those in our communities.

We hope to use the data collected from this survey to shape our storytelling and provide the answers you most want to hear.

This data will also be used to plan the final portion of this project, a digital community conversation that will provide a platform for these important discussions to take place.

Please participate in the Addressing Period Poverty Survey by following this link

The survey will also be available in Spanish in the coming weeks.


ILLN Editor, Reporter Annabel Rocha

Editor’s Note: In July, Illinois Latino News announced my participation in The Center for Health Journalism’s 2022 National Fellowship. My intention through this project is to encourage conversations about menstruation, grant a platform to those most affected by period poverty and ultimately, contribute to the destigmatization of periods. 

My introduction to this topic was published by the Center for Health Journalism.

To share any questions, comments, concerns or suggestions please contact me at

The post Addressing Period Poverty appeared first on ILLN.

Enhancing Accessibility in NH Elections

The diverse panel of New Hampshire leaders at the “Community Conversation: Voting in the New Hampshire Midterms and General Electionâ€� event discussed the importance of staying informed and motivated to participate in local elections. They also shared ongoing efforts to make voting more accessible and explained how the NH elections will operate this year.  

The free virtual event was moderated by Latino News Network (LNN) Owner and Publisher Hugo Balta. The panel included AARP NH State Director Christina FitzPatrick, New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan, Director of the NH Alliance for Immigrant and Refugees Eva Castillo, and Executive Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics Neil Levesque. 

Watch the recorded in-depth panel discussion HERE:   

New Hampshire Latino News and AARP New Hampshire announced their collaboration earlier this month that would prepare New Hampshire residents for the upcoming 2022 NH primary elections on September 13 and the midterm elections on November 8. 

Tuesday evening, panelists addressed ongoing local efforts to increase accessibility so all New Hampshire residents can vote informed and with ease.

“I think it’s important for voters to know that the legislature has made some changes over the decade that have made it easier for individuals to vote,â€� NH Secretary of State Scanlan said. “So, there are opportunities that are being created for individuals that would otherwise have a difficult time getting to the polls or even accessing the material they need to be able to vote. I see that as a big move forward as well.â€� 

The Secretary of State’s Office is currently working to make its website ADA compliant so residents with disabilities can access election-related materials and information with ease, according to Scanlan. 

He also shared that they now offer multilingual resources on local elections in Spanish, French, and Mandarin; these materials are online and will also be available at the polls. 

“It really makes a big difference,� said Eva Castillo, Director of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. “This allows for a unified place to get information… I work really hard for immigrant integration in New Hampshire and it is disempowering to always have to use someone as an interpreter or an ambassador to find something that should be so simple to find. This is going to be really empowering to people.�

The Hispanic-Latino population within New Hampshire has greatly increased over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census. Although more election-related resources are available in Spanish now, Castillo explained that inclusive efforts must go beyond language. 

“If [candidates] don’t reach out to Latinos and immigrants in general they cannot expect us to feel like we’re going to be listened to [or] that it’s even worth voting,â€� she said. “But…New Hampshire is privileged in the fact that we have access to every single official here…you do not need to be anybody special to talk to your senators…and your congresspeople.â€� 

Although state primary and midterm elections typically have low voter turnouts, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics Neil Levesque expects high voter participation across the state. 

“I think we have the highest voter turnouts in America, we’re very engaged. A lot of that is … that New Hampshire is such a small state you really can participate, you really can get to know these elected officials,â€� Levesque said. “A lot of the time, individual issues will motivate people. There’s a series of issues out there that’s motivating people and I expect that we will have very high voter turnouts.â€�  

As the New Hampshire primary elections are less than two weeks away, panelists pointed out the importance of preparing for election day ahead of time. 

“The most important thing that people need to do is to make a plan to vote,â€� AARP NH State Director FitzPatrick said. “They need to think about it ahead of time and make sure you know where you’re going, what you need to bring with you, and how you are going to get there.â€� 

AARP NH offers information on their website that could help residents make these plans; residents should visit (English) or (Español). 

Another free online resource available to voters is AARP New Hampshire’s Voters Guide, which outlines important deadlines, when to apply for an absentee ballot, and what’s new in this year’s elections. 

A brief survey was released two weeks before the community conversation to gather specific questions from the public regarding New Hampshire’s election and voting processes. The collected responses were integrated into the programming to help shape our event and tailor the panel discussion dedicated to residents. 

NHLN and its sibling digital outlets under the Latino News Network have taken a collaborative approach to regularly incorporate community feedback and solutions-focused reporting across our work. Our newsroom recognizes that the communities we serve are more than just our audience but our collaborators. 

Latino News Network’s coverage of democracy and upcoming elections incorporates important practices from the Democracy SOS fellowship. NHLN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship that is committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement. 

NHLN and AARP NH will continue to provide a variety of free informational resources to New Hampshire residents regarding local elections. Stay updated on future events by signing up for the NHLN Newsletter HERE and visiting AARP NH’s website HERE.

About New Hampshire Latino News NH Latino News is part of the Latino News Network (LNN). LNN oversees an independent group of local news and information, English language, digital outlets with a statewide, Hispanic-Latino community editorial focus in New Hampshire, Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

AARP New Hampshire AARP is thriving in New Hampshire with nearly 215,000 members. AARP serves as a one-stop resource for the age 50+ population in the Granite State. We provide information about the breadth of local offerings, community engagement, volunteer opportunities, advocacy, and community events. We are focused on advancing age-friendly communities, celebrating family caregivers, protecting financial security, and making your voice heard. To learn more, visit or follow @AARPNH on social media.

Meet The Fellows

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) is proud to announce the inaugural class of Journalism Camp: covering race, ethnicity, and culture!

Danna Matheus, originally from Caracas, Venezuela, is a first-generation immigrant; currently residing in the Washington DC area. Danna is a Communications graduate from Frederick Community College and a Journalism student at the University of Maryland. Danna has experience as a news reporter for “The Commuter,” a student-run newspaper, and as a producer for “Discovering your Future,â€� a podcast that helps students to find their passion.

“I believe the more we know about different cultures, ethnicities, and races, the more tolerant and less judgmental we will be,” she said.

Giana Aguilar-Valencia is a junior at the University of Central Florida. Giana grew up in a Colombian-Immigrant household. She is a first-generation American and first-generation college student. “Navigating both the American lifestyle and educational processes has been a handful,” she said. “Speaking Spanish at home and English everywhere else felt like a built culture shock. Although I am grateful to have learned my beautiful language and grew up very attached to my culture, I find myself unique from those around me.”

Jacqueline Cardenas is an undergrad student majoring in journalism with a concentration in Latino Communication at DePaul University. Jacqueline is a first-generation Mexican American who wishes to diversify the news industry. She is the editor-in-chief of the first Spanish-language student newspaper in Chicago— La DePaulia.

“This program would allow me to be a part of critical discussions surrounding the harsh realities of being a Latina women reporter and become prepared to face challenges that will help me become a stronger journalist,” she said.

Kiara Coll Ramirez is a graduate of the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo (UPRA), and the recipient of the 2022 Hortencia Zavala Foundation Scholarship. Coll was also president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Student Chapter at UPRA. She plans to attend graduate school. “I am a proud Latina puertorriqueña searching for new opportunities and experiences to keep growing,� Coll wrote in her scholarship application. She said she never saw herself as a leader, but with the help of her colleagues worked hard to become one.

Nadia Carolina Hernandez is a junior at DePaul University studying journalism. Nadia is the print managing editor of The DePaulia and president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists – DePaul.

“My passion is reporting about marginalized communities and diversifying newsrooms and their coverage,” she said. “This city (Chicago) and its Latino community are unique. I will engage in this Bootcamp with curiosity and grit.”

The FREE virtual workshop is led by award-winning news media veteran and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Hugo Balta.

As part of the program, all of the stories produced by the fellows were published on one or all of the Latino News Network news outlets. Balta is the owner and publisher of the Latino News Network.

“It is imperative that students get real work experiences and mentoring to navigate a newsroom that more often than not is not diverse and inclusive,� said Balta.

Due to a lack of equitable representation in newsrooms, there is an urgent need to train journalists to be transparent in news gathering and reporting on the complexity of racial identity, social constructs relating to ethnic terms, and cultural competence.

Covering race, ethnicity, and culture: a guideline for fair and accurate storytelling is a course designed to go beyond the inverted pyramid of basic news writing in examining the terminology, usage, and word choice of stories providing greater visibility and understanding of deep-rooted inequities in all aspects of society.

Guest speakers also share insights on networking with a purpose, strategies for managing one’s career, and the experience of often being the only person of color in the newsroom.

The weekly class will begin on September 7.

Publisher’s Notes: Special thanks to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) for their help in promoting the Journalism Camp. May of the candidates who applied are members of the organization.

The Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) was founded in 2016 in honor of Hugo Balta’s maternal grandmother.

HZF is a not-for-profit organization that helps students offset the costs of higher education with scholarships. In 2021, the organization expanded its support of students to include the Journalism Camp.

Please consider making a donation to HZF: Support Journalism.

Oases in the Desert: How Local Initiatives Battle Food Insecurity

The Go Green Fresh Community Market in Chicago’s Englewood is an oasis. With its earthy-colored signs and stalls stacked with leafy greens, the local grocery store sits at the intersection of 63rd and Racine – right in the heart of a food desert, where locals have little or no access to fresh produce. 

Food deserts, according to the USDA, are entirely man-made urban areas with a poverty rate of at least 20% and where at least a third of the population lives more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. In Chicago, food deserts make up the majority of South and West neighborhoods, prompting around 500 thousand residents to shop at local corner stores. 

A typical corner store, however, is crammed, small, and does not carry fresh food options, explains Elliot Clay, state programs director at the Illinois Environmental Council. Results of concentrated shopping at corner stores vary from health problems – obesity, diabetes, and shorter life expectancy – to social issues, where neighborhoods do not evolve, and locals drain their own neighborhoods of income, trying to access food options elsewhere. 

“Corner stores are typically the only stores residents can access without a private vehicle, “explains Sana Syed, senior director of strategic initiatives at the Inner City Muslim Association (IMAN), an organization behind Englewood’s community market. “51% of Englewood’s population does not own a car.“ This creates a 30-year life expectancy gap between Englewood – where an average resident is expected to live up to 60 years – and Streeterville, just nine miles north, where life expectancy is up to 90 years. 

“You cannot bring investment to the community without talking to the community and making sure the investment makes sense for that community.â€�

Lori Lightfoot, Mayor of Chicago

Despite the implication in the name, food deserts are not naturally the case for Chicago, Syed adds. Rather, they are a result of people’s decisions. One such decision is the announced closure of the Whole Foods Market, just two intersections away from Go Green. Less than six years ago, Whole Foods promised to bring more fresh food options to Englewood, yet Mayor Lori Lightfoot now insists that the corporation never made the right investment, to begin with: “Most Chicagoans are hard-pressed to pay, for example, $15 a pound for a piece of steak,� Lightfoot said. “To me, what it underscores — and I wasn’t here when this decision was made — you cannot bring investment to the community without talking to the community and making sure the investment makes sense for that community.�

Now IMAN is stepping in to fill in the gap meaningfully, trying to find the best-tailored approach for Englewood. At first, the organization worked directly with corner store owners, encouraging them to diversify the products and improve the aesthetics of the stores “But we could only preach that much,� Syed smiles.�At some point, these corner stores needed a viable model. They needed to see what their store could look like.� 

Since opening its doors in March 2022, the Go Green Fresh Community Market has shown what a neighborhood market can do for local vendors and consumers alike. The market carries 40 local products owned by people of color; It also offers halal, kosher, and gluten-free options for consumers with specific diets. Pre-packaged lunch options made on the spot in the deli – a rare luxury in Englewood – are hit products that vanish from shelves in an instant. 

But what’s more important, Syed says consumers finally have a local store that feels dignified to them. 

“The overwhelming reaction has been of gratitude,â€� she says, recalling how residents would leave tips at the cash register. “ It is such a heartwarming gesture if you think of it. This is a low-income neighborhood where people barely have enough to pay bills, and yet they were leaving tips.â€� 

A market – a model of a successful small business in Englewood also served as an important example of local success. Syed explains that IMAN made a conscious choice to start a business rather than a food pantry: 

“There are some pantries [serving Englewood residents],â€� she said. “But it was just the lack of confidence that business operators or corporations have around the viability of business in our neighborhood.â€� So IMAN insisted upon fostering business development. 

Helping existing businesses

Just a state away from Chicago, “Max� Kaniger also saw an opportunity in corner stores strewn across Kansas City, where countries like Jackson in Missouri and Wyandotte in Kansas, parts of which classify as food deserts.

“I realized convenience stores provide a really great infrastructure that’s already in place,â€� he recalls. In 2017 Kanger partnered with one store on May 31st and Prospect, which allowed him to bring and install a refrigerator for fresh produce. Kaniger would deliver perishable goods for it, and the store would keep some income from the sales. 

4 months of partnership and a year of analyzing its results gave way to what is now Kanbe’s Markets –  a 30,000 square-foot warehouse with six trucks going in and out, supplying 40 corner stores in the city’s Black and Brown communities with fresh goods and making sure they can store the items properly: For each store, Kanbe’s buys refrigeration, shelving, racks, and baskets. Then, it delivers fresh produce on consignment, meaning that no charges are applied to corner stores until the produce is sold. “If anything goes bad, we replace it at no cost,â€� Kaniger adds. All the corner stores have to do is sell the produce and the two sides share profits.

“With the consignment model, we make it easier for them to sell healthy foods,â€�  Kaniger says, explaining that as a supplier, Kanbe’s gets to control the quality and the price of all the food in the store. He remembers instances of severed relationships because partners inflated prices. “Just because they are the only option in a particular neighborhood doesn’t mean I want the prices to go up,â€� Kaniger concludes. The model also enables Kanbe’s to keep shelves stacked even if the product sells out quickly. 

Kanbe’s operational area starts from the northern end of the city and spans to Independence in the south. It includes Coleman Highlands and Troost Avenue, which has historically served as a divide between the city’s East and West sides – the life expectancy in East Kansas City, where Black and Brown communities reside, is 14 years less than in areas west of Troost Avenue. 

Chicago Kansas City
Total population (2021) 2,696,555 508,394
Black population 29,2% 27,7%
Hispanic/Latino population 28,6% 10,6%
% of the population living in poverty 17,3% 15,3%

In the face of a disparity like this, Kaniger’s philosophy makes sense: at Kanbe’s, nothing goes to waste. Foodsellers donate what they aren’t going to sell, and Kanbe’s volunteers come in, sorting food in terms of quality: The best quality products go to grocery stores or organizations that prepare meal kits, lower level produce makes its way to zoos, animal shelters and the rest – to compost sites.

Lessons learned

While a single market in Chicago or a single warehouse serving 70 stores in Kansas City can’t solve a city-wide problem, both enterprises are living examples of community members battling food deserts with their own means. 

“I want to make sure that if people are having to go to a convenience store to get food, it should still be the same quality that you would expect at any grocery store,� Kaniger said about his vision.

As for IMAN, the organization hopes to turn its market into a community and cultural center that will serve as a catalyst in the revitalization of Englewood. But they can’t do the work alone, without companies distributing the goods. Syed explains that as a small non-profit, the market pays higher prices on goods than big chain enterprises like Whole Foods. “This is not just a typical grocery store; this exists within a context of food injustice and food inequity. [So distributors] have a responsibility in this neighborhood,� she says, adding with a tinge of surprise simple yet sad maxim decision-makers in the food industry often forget: “People do not have to be grateful when a grocery store opens in the community.�

Irina Matchavariani is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism.

She is working with Illinois Latino News (ILLN) as part of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute’s (RJI) Student Innovation Fellowships program, gaining hands-on experience helping the outlets connect with their audiences.

A native of the Republic of Georgia, Irina’s experience includes working with Vox Magazine and the Columbia Missourian.

Publisher’s Notes: Please support IL Latino News’ mission to nurture young journalists. Please make a donation via Balta Enterprises, parent of ILLN, and the Latino News Network: Developing the Future of Journalism.

The post Oases in the Desert: How Local Initiatives Battle Food Insecurity appeared first on ILLN.

Creating accessible places for young people

“Civics is a hallmark of the work that we do here at the (CWECSEO) commission,� said Steven Hernandez, an attorney who serves as the executive director of the Commission on Women, children, seniors, equity and opportunity (CWCSEO) at the Connecticut General Assembly.

As a guest on the Latino News Network podcast, â€œ3 Questions With…â€� Hernandez speaks of the importance of promoting civic engagement in the state of Connecticut.

The CWCSEO researches best practices, coordinates stakeholders, and promotes public policies that are in the interests of Connecticut’s underserved and underrepresented families, women, children, and older adults. “When you think of a government agency, you may think, you know, how is it that this agency represents the people of the state, either in government or among state actors, but this agency is a little different. There’s a people-facing component to what we doâ€�, said Hernandez.

One of the initiatives is the Parent Leadership Training Insitute, otherwise known as the PLTI. The PLTI is a program in which families are trained over the course of almost twenty-five weeks on how to be engaged in democracy and become more active in their community while also developing skills needed for civic leadership.

A factor within the PLTI is called the Children’s Leadership Training Institute, an element that Hernandez is passionate about. “What we teach is that children are leaders today. They’re not just leaders of tomorrow; they are engaged in their own civic spaces: their school, their families, their communities.â€� Hernandez stresses the importance of civic engagement in all its forms, from creating accessible places for young people to learning to run for office.

Steven Hernandez also shared the importance of family and community. Hernandez comes from a family of immigrants, his great grandparents on his father’s matrilineal side having immigrated to Chicago from Italy, later moving to Veracruz until the Mexican revolution, where they then settled in Tampico and Monterrey, where they reside to this day. His mother’s side—as well as his father’s patrilineal side— is Mexican, dating back multiple generations. As proud as Hernandez is of his ancestry, he’s proud to call Connecticut home too. “This country belongs to each and every one of you as much as it does to anyone else,â€� says Hernandez. “Even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes from what we may hear in the media and what we may hear otherwise, at least in our little version of democracy that is Connecticut, this is your home, too. And you have the right to engage all of the resources so that you can improve your own life and the lives of your family.â€�

Chicago Street Soccer: Unifying Communities

Free from the rules and regulations of standardized sports and true to the essence of how futbol is played around the world, street soccer is a pastime rooted in many Latinos’ childhood memories and, for some, everyday life.

This summer, Mettle Sports, in collaboration with Sterling Bay and the Chicago Park District, is hosting the Chicago Street Soccer Tour, traveling around the city and setting up free, portable soccer fields in select parks. The tour began on July 14 in Ellis Park, with stops scheduled in South Chicago, North Lawndale, and Rogers Park, among others.

Mettle Sports was founded in Evanston in 2017 as a company that provides pitches and equipment to make street soccer more accessible to underserved communities. The company works to promote the culture of street soccer by providing gated areas to practice but allowing participants to organically organize and decide how to play. 

“We see it truly as what I think a lot of the world has recognized, that they’ve become these epicenters for communities, a place for people to gather, no matter if you play soccer or just want to commune with your neighbors,â€� said Mettle Sports CEO Neal Levin, describing the communal aspect of soccer. 

Mettle became an ARCS partner with the park district, collaboratively deciding which parks to incorporate into the program based on programming, space, and community, according to Levin. In mid-July, Mettle installed the soccer pitches at Harrison Park for a two-week stint in Pilsen.

“In Pilsen, I think we have a history of being a very strong community,� said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez. “It’s meaningful to be in Harrison Park because I think a good number of our kids, our families, enjoy the game,� he continued, expressing the importance of unstructured activities like this existing in the neighborhood.

Studies suggest that physically active communities are physically and mentally healthier, have higher high school graduation rates, and lower obesity rates, which tends to be a more prevalent issue in communities of color like Pilsen.

One of the goals of the tour is to draw people outside, away from technology, to bond with others.

“The culture of street soccer has been overwhelming to bring people together that otherwise wouldn’t come together in unstructured, free play. That’s just blossomed to finding more ways that we could bring that to the people, and that’s been our mission,� said Levin.

The pitches are open for people to start their own games or even just kick the ball around. Visitors have noticed how this makes the sport more approachable. 

“It’s not competitive; it’s more recreational. So there’s a little bit of pressure off of you. You can just show up, play, enjoy the community that we kind of built right now and just have fun,� said local soccer organizer Diego Moreno.

Street soccer has no rules, and that approach to the sport was implemented into the plan of implanting these pitches into the parks. There’s no requirement to book the space ahead of time or to ask for permission to play. The pitches are accessible, unlocked, and remain on-site overnight for the duration that they are in the community.

“What’s nice too is that it’s out here; you don’t necessarily have to ask anyone to use it. You can just come out, be a part of it, and then soccer’s a very welcoming sport,� said Moreno.

It was important to Levin and Mettle Sports to keep the tour free of rules and commitments. He explained that in the United States, most soccer fields are largely built with the intention of programming. He says that Mettle approaches the sport with a conscious effort not to over-structure and give freedom to those who choose to use their amenities, regardless of age, gender, or skill level.

“There’s not a single rule to a street soccer pitch,� he said.

As summer has progressed and the pitches traveled around Chicago, their green walls have filled with the spray-painted names of the neighborhoods they’ve seen, a colorful collage symbolic of the city’s culturally rich neighborhoods. Levin said, “I think people really enjoy creating their own space. I think it’s very empowering to give ownership of how you use an amenity to the community.�

The pitches can currently be found in Field (Eugene) Park in Albany Park. The tour will conclude this fall with a tournament held at Fleet Fields from Oct. 13-16. Mettle Sports says both the Chicago Street Soccer Tour and Cup will return next summer.

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Mental Health Resources for the new school year

In a collaborative effort to equip parents with the information necessary for the upcoming school year Illinois Latino News, WBEZ, and Association House of Chicago hosted the free, virtual and bilingual event: Community Conversation: Student Mental Health in Chicago Schools on August 18. 

The online conversation brought together a variety of mental health experts and educators to discuss resources available for Chicago parents and students.

Araceli Gomez-Aldana of WBEZ moderated the event which consisted of five panelists: Myra Rodriguez, Community Health Supervisor at Association House; Dr. Tara Gill, Psychologist and Mental Health Consultant at Lurie Children’s Hospital Center for Childhood Resilience; Catherine Whitfield Martin, Principal at Charles Sumner Math and Science Academy; Brian Coleman, Counselor at Jones College Prep and President at Illinois School Counselor Association; and Lucia del Rincon Martinez, Trauma Therapist at La Rabida Children’s Hospital Chicago Child Trauma Center. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, Illinois Latino News and WBEZ shared a survey that gave the public the opportunity to engage in the conversation by telling the newsrooms exactly what they wanted to know. These responses helped develop the final structure of the Community Conversation.

According to survey responses, the mental health of students is on parents’ minds. Experts validate these concerns, with 2021 data from the CDC revealing that 37 percent of high schoolers in the U.S. reported poor mental health during the pandemic and 44 percent saying they felt persistently sad or hopeless during that year. The American Academy of Pediatrics even declared the state of adolescent mental health a national emergency

One concern shared in the survey asked how parents can know the difference between mental health issues and a child just being a child. Rodriguez said that it’s easy for parents to assume some behaviors are due to developing adolescents, especially in teenagers, but that parents should be concerned if they start to notice patterns or differences in eating or sleeping habits that are not typical for that child. 

Parents also voiced concerns with helping their children deal with stress from school and pressure from extracurricular activities. 

“I think it’s really important for parents to recognize that they can set the tone in their household based on their family values,â€� said Dr. Gill. She said it’s important to model emotional safety and healthy ways to deal with stress because children pick up on how this is dealt with at home. 

Cultural barriers can impact how mental health is addressed. 

“In the Latino community talking about mental health, disorders, illnesses, it’s still very taboo. You know, there’s a lot of these assumptions that one is weak minded or it’s all in your mind, it’s all in your brain, don’t think about it,� explained Rodriguez.

This stigma, which exists in both the Latino and Black communities, often prevents in need people from seeking resources. Dr. Gill said that it’s okay to stay true to your cultural traditions while also implementing a healthier approach to mental wellness.

The event focused on helping parents understand the resources available at the school level. Both Whitfield Martin and Coleman expressed that they’ve seen a shift in how Chicago schools treat mental health and wellness, with much more resources being available now. They said that it’s important to understand the makeup of a student’s school’s system, who the key staff members to turn to are and common language used in order to best take advantage of what’s available in each school. 

“It’s about reaching out, finding who your support players are and normalizing that trusting, collaborative relationship that’s so important,� said Coleman.

To assist in establishing this relationship with your child’s teacher, Whitfield Martin suggests being transparent about your child’s specific needs and approaches you know work best for them. For parents who feel hesitant to engage with schools due to language barriers, Coleman ensures that plenty of resources are available to help families with these needs, but that parents have to express that they want help.

“The more information that a school has, then they can meet you where you are but we have to first know where you are, which means we have to first know you,� said Coleman.

Viewers who would like to provide feedback of the event can do so in English here or in Spanish here. WBEZ has compiled a resource guide to keep students happy and healthy this school year. This list is expected to be translated and available in Spanish in the coming weeks. 

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