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Filipino Community Center addresses food insecurity among households in the Excelsior

Shara Orquiza of the Filipino Community Center hand-delivers free groceries to clients in the Excelsior on April 21, 2022. Photo: Ekevara Kitpowsong

The Filipino Community Center continues the mission of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) Bayanihan Response to COVID-19 by delivering free groceries to households in San Francisco's Excelsior District. The program is a partnership between the FCC and Bayanihan Equity Center and currently serves 59 households, equating to 126 individuals overall.

"This campaign encapsulates a lot of the community's needs based on health, education, food insecurity, income insecurity, workers' rights," said Food Program Coordinator Jaya Duhaylongsod. "We want to continue to see how we can unite together and really capture the spirit of Bayanihan to help the community because this is just that. There are so many different ways folks can come together, assess the needs, and take action."

NAFCON launched the national health and wellness campaign in March 2020 in response to the urgent and long-term needs of impacted Filipino communities throughout the United States and the Philippines.

"We try to be as culturally competent as possible and provide foods that Filipinos would like to eat, including rice and spam," said Marybeth Salem, an FCC staff member and NAFCON coordinator. "Many Filipinos prefer our program because we deliver the groceries directly to them."

Staff member Marybeth Salem and volunteer Estelito Adiova of the Filipino Community Center deliver free groceries to clients living in the Excelsior through the organization’s Food Delivery Program on April 21, 2022. Photo: Ekevara Kitpowsong

The food delivery program represents something more than bags of groceries provided to Filipinos in the area. Salem says it's a way to give back and reconnect with the community, which has become a fruitful experience for her and other volunteers.

The Bayanihan spirit of communal unity and cooperation is a concept that became more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tobi Santelices, who volunteers for the FCC and serves as a communications lead for the food delivery program, reflects on this spirit, which has persisted and only grown more profound in the Filipino community over the past two years.

"Having the FCC be based in the Excelsior has been really helpful because we can develop deep relationships, understand the conditions of what's happening in the neighborhood, and not only provide free food but also connect clients to different services," Santelices said.

Although support has remained steady, continued efforts may be placed on hold until the FCC secures a grant to fund the delivery program. Despite the lack of financial support and the program's pending termination in June 2022, the Bayanihan spirit and hope for the community still remain.

"There's definitely a need to provide resources for all those communities in the Excelsior," Salem said. "Even though we haven't secured funding, we want to advocate for it since we know [food insecurity] is a huge problem that Filipinos will continue to face, especially under a pandemic."

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