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Nuestra Gente opens first Spanish-English food pantry catering to Latinos who have issues with language or cultural barriers

"Latinos don't have the access to benefits because of their immigration status. So food is a basic human right," said Linda Parra.

TOLEDO, Ohio — A first-of-its-kind food pantry is opening up in the city to bridge the gap within the Latino Community.

Nuestra Gente Community Projects, behind the movement, says food insecurity shouldn't be an issue, depending on what language you speak. 

On Wednesday, a Spanish countdown and ribbon-cutting initiated the opening to Toledo's first Spanish-English 419 food pantry.

You can find it on 1411 Boardway St. in the Old South End.

"We decided to come and check it out to help us with the flour. I do a lot of tortillas," said Jesusa Moreno, who stopped by the pantry with her husband.

The idea comes from Linda Parra, the founder, and president of Nuestra Gente Community Projects.

"We started thinking about this project when we did the seven large food distributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw the need through our food distributions in the parking lot," said Parra. 

Add the pandemic hardships to language barriers and immigration issues.

Moreno, a retired mother of four, says Spanish speakers find it hard to visit a regular food pantry. 

"It's kinda hard for people that don't speak English and finding somebody that speaks Spanish, they feel more comfortable talking Spanish," said Moreno. 

"Latinos don't have the access to benefits because of their immigration status. So food is a basic human right and this food pantry will be open to them and we will provide twice a week," Parra said.

With time, Parra plans to promote this as just a stepping stone for other bilingual food pantries. 

"This is only the beginning. So we are helping little by little and then when you do little by little, it goes bigger and bigger. That's our goal," said Parra. 

As things get more expensive, Moreno says this pantry will help her pay for other necessities. 

"Especially gas. Gas is getting too expensive. Like, help with the light. Something that we need to survive," said Moreno. 

The 419 food pantry will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

Parra says you don't have to be Latino to be helped, but you may be asked to give some information.

But the non-profit says its goal is to not turn anyone away. 

With time, they are hoping to add more hours when they can hire staff and not just volunteers.

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