Census Outreach: United Way, HACB provide snack packs, promote Census participation

Laura Landaverde waits with her two sons, David and Emmanuel, as volunteer Patricia Orozco brings them their snack packs Thursday in the Buena Vida neighborhood on East 14th Street (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Bright and early Thursday morning volunteers with the United Way of Southern Cameron County and Housing Authority of the City of Brownsville began delivering 700 healthy snack packs to HACB households that also aim to promote participation in the 2020 Census on el dia de los ninos, children’s day.

The snack packs are like the ones United Way distributes to school children during winter break, when schools aren’t serving meals. Now, with children at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, United Way and HACB are delivering the snack packs again, part of an effort to reach housing authority families. Many fall into the category of hard to count community with regard to the census.

“Our goals are to provide rapid relief to families struggling to keep food on the table, and to highlight the importance of the 2020 Census and having an accurate count in our community,” said Wendy De Leon, communications and event coordinator for UWSCC.

The snack packs contain a healthy assortment of snackable food items, along with a book to read and census outreach materials in English and Spanish.

Despite perceptions to the contrary, the 2020 Census does not contain a citizenship question, De Leon stressed. Because the Trump administration sought to include the question on the survey “everybody’s still in fear. You’d be surprised the number of people who still call us about that issue,” she said.

“Many people still don’t know that the census is only taken every 10 years, so if we don’t get an accurate count it will affect our federal funding for the next 10 years. We live in an impoverished community, so federal funding is pivotal to us. … The U.S. Census is used to distribute funds for hospitals, schools, health and social services, roads and other programs that make our community a special place to live and raise a family.”

Laura Landaverde expressed gratitude Thursday morning as volunteers dropped off snack packs for each of her two children at their home on Mira Flores street in the Buena Vida neighborhood off East 14th Street. “This is a blessing for us. God is good.”

Hilda Ledesma, with HACB, said the children’s day activity was one of a number of ways the agency keeps track of and connects with kids at the various HACB locations around town.

Nearby, Dylan Enriquez helped bring snack packs inside for him and his five brothers and one sister.

Three Brownsville Independent School District teachers, who are also after-school volunteer tutors at HACB locations, helped distribute the bags.

Nereyda Rodriguez teaches third grade at Egly Elementary, and Patty Gonzalez, fourth-grade. They and Patty Orozco, who teaches at Lucio Middle School, were helping pass out the snack packs from an HACB location at 1406 E. 14th St. All three are volunteer tutors at the Linda Vista location on Old Port Isabel Road.

Orozco said many kids come straight to an HACB center after school, which makes volunteer tutoring all the more enjoyable for her.

Carla Mancha, HACB chief executive officer, thanked De Leon and the leadership at UWSCC “for thinking of our kids and bringing some joy into their lives during a challenging time.”

“It is during difficult times that we need to come together as a community, team, family to lift one another up, show compassion and spread care and love,” she said.

People can complete the 2020 Census by going to 2020census.gov or calling (844) 330-2020 (English) or (844) 468-2020 (Spanish)

Each Snack Pack includes:
• 1 jar of Peanut Butter
• 1 box of Graham Crackers
• Package of Pudding Cups (minimum of 4)
• Fruit Cups (minimum of 8)
• Package of Granola Bars
• Package of Cereal Bars
• Cereal (one box)
• Canned tuna (minimum of 2)
• 100% Juice boxes (minimum 10 juices)
• Cheese and Cracker Kits
• Box of Whole Wheat Crackers
• Raisins

glong@brownsvilleherald.com