AUSTIN, Texas - Hispanics continue being disproportionately affected by COVID19 cases and now a local urban farmer is making it her mission to help with food access.
“So this place, as you can see, the pecan trees, fig trees, herbs, all kinds of things and this is a public space so anybody can go here to take a walk and have some fresh nutritious food,” Rodriguez says.
It’s a place growing food accessible for anyone who needs it.
“If you ask me, we need a lot more of this, all over the city and that’s where Fruitful Commons comes and just supporting more community gardens, more food for us, more places where people can have access to local fresh nutritious food,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez is a banker, so getting a job could be easier for her, but she says whatever her next career path is, she wants it to be in food justice. Right now, she’s doing social media for Fruitful Commons.
“I’m cutting them because I’m trying to do some pictures for the social media for Fruitful Commons, so [I’m] getting creative trying to take some beautiful pictures that highlight the abundance of this place,” Rodriguez says, reaching for pecan seeds that fill the trees.
Given the disproportionate cases of COVID-19 in the Hispanic community, Rodriguez says she can’t just stand by. “I’m Mexican, soy Mexicana, and that is so much of my identity. [My identity] is Mexican food, it’s why I started my business to begin with because I couldn’t find authentic Mexican ingredients, so it’s just a huge part of what I am,” Rodriguez says. “Now it’s being more transformed into a desire to serve my community, the Hispanic community in general, you know, Black, Indigenous, people of color are being disproportionately affected by COVID.”
“We value helping each other you know, hoy por ti, mañana por mi,” Rodriguez says in Spanish. It means, today for you, tomorrow for me, meaning even though she's jobless, she focused on others.
“Seeing my community suffer, I can’t stand by. I have to find a way to give back and help because it needs to be done,” Rodriguez said. “People of color disproportionately work the service jobs versus in the sectors where you actually get to work from home and still earn a salary. Without having a steady income, that affects your food. If you don’t have a steady income you don’t have reliable access to healthy nutritious food.”
She says the impact goes beyond losing a job and income.
“Diet has a huge huge impact on all our systems, in our health and in our capacity to be able to fight a virus, so if you do not have access to healthy nutritious food, you know, if you’re food insecure, which we talked about how that disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, people of color, your immune system is going to be weaker, which means that you’re more impacted by diseases such as COVID-19 and you can see the rates of really sick Black people or Hispanic people are higher than the rates of really sick White people and that is 100% tied to diet,” Rodriguez explains.
For now, she's doing her part, planting small seeds in hopes her efforts to help her people are fruitful.