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August 11, 2022

Food banks provide helping hand to Salinas Valley farmworkers

Celebration Nation continues to distribute supplies throughout region

GREENFIELD — Celebration Nation is continuing to host food banks for local farmworkers in the Salinas Valley, with the next two events planned for King City and Greenfield on upcoming Saturdays.

The nonprofit, launched in 2020 to support farm-working communities in California, currently schedules food distributions from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. every first Saturday in Greenfield, second Saturday in Soledad, third Saturday in Gonzales and fourth Saturday in King City at various sites within the South Monterey County cities.

King City’s next food bank is set for Saturday, June 25, with the location to be determined. Past distributions have been held outside the King City Recreation Department at 401 Division St.

Greenfield’s next food bank will take place Saturday, July 2, at Patriot Park, 1351 Oak Ave. Soledad’s next food bank is planned for Saturday, July 9, at the Soledad Community Center, 560 Walker Drive. In Gonzales, food boxes were recently distributed to families on June 18, with the next event scheduled for Saturday, July 16, at 401 Fourth St.

Flor Martinez, founder of Celebration Nation, uses her social media following to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for California’s underserved communities, particularly farmworkers. Her Instagram account (@flowerinspanish) has more than 115,000 followers who continue to support the nonprofit through fundraising campaigns.

Celebration Nation hosts a food bank for local farmworkers and their families outside the King City Recreation Department. The next distribution in King City is set for this Saturday, June 25. (Contributed)

“Most of the money raised is done through fundraising campaigns I host on Instagram, and I’m confident that one day we will raise enough funding to help all farmworkers in California,” Martinez said. “My account’s followers are really engaged in the work we do, even though many of them are not in California. I like to use my platform to explain decisions behind the work we do to encourage others to donate and show people where the money is going. My next dream is to expand and establish a food bank in the Central Valley.”

Celebration Nation operates its own food bank and manages two warehouses — one in Los Angeles and another in San Jose, where it is headquartered. The nonprofit is looking to expand into the Central Valley, as well.

In Los Angeles, Martinez uses Instagram to connect with children from food-insecure households and encourages them to order food from Celebration Nation, which they can have delivered to their home with the help of her partnership with DoorDash’s ProjectDash program.

According to the Food Bank for Monterey County, 1 in 3 children are affected by food insecurity in the county. Nationwide, statistics show that 1 in 6 Latinos in the United States struggle with food insecurity, with 19% of Latino children at risk of hunger.

“Food insecurity rates among Latino immigrants who arrived to the U.S. after the year 2000 are higher than among those who arrived prior. Naturalized citizens have the lowest rates of food insecurity among the U.S. Latino population,” according to a report by Feeding America. “Predominantly Latino communities often have limited access to healthy food outlets. Latino neighborhoods have one third the number of supermarkets as non-Latino neighborhoods.”

Celebration Nation hosts a recent food bank for local farmworkers in Soledad. The next distribution is planned for Saturday, July 9, at the Soledad Community Center. (Contributed)

At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Martinez noticed the lack of mentions for farmworkers among the support needed for those deemed essential workers. Even though farmworkers were not visible, she said, fresh fruits and vegetables were still arriving at grocery stores thanks to their tiring work. 

Martinez posted her concerns on Instagram, not knowing the video would go viral overnight. She woke up with close to 100,000 new followers, many of whom asked what they could do to support farmworkers.

“There was little to no physical contact during the pandemic, which made Instagram instrumental in building a virtual community of supporters for farmworkers and immigrants,” Martinez said. “The missing recognition for what farmworkers endured and continued to endure through the pandemic was disheartening, and I needed a community that shared these concerns and opinions with me at a time when we all felt isolated.”

That support helped Martinez launch Celebration Nation, providing not only groceries for farmworkers, but also masks, blankets and backpacks filled with school supplies for their children.

“I’m grateful to have turned this into an opportunity that funnels resources straight into the hands of those who need it most with Instagram fundraising campaigns and even ongoing monthly donors for my nonprofit,” she said.

For more information about Celebration Nation and its ongoing food distributions and other programs, visit the website celebration-nation.org.

Ryan Cronk
Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.

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