Hartford Food Pantry That Fed Undocumented Families In Pandemic Forced To Close
Some 20 families lined up to receive diapers and other essentials on a recent afternoon in Hartford. Among them was Angela Perez.
“I’ve been [coming] here because they’ve helped me with food and diapers. Now we found out they’re closing,” Perez said in Spanish. “It’s been a huge help to me and many other moms.”
The Guatemalan mother took advantage of the food pantry during the pandemic, as did hundreds of undocumented families. La Bodeguita de la Gente, or The People’s Little Cornerstore, once handed out food, diapers and clothing from a basement in Frog Hollow, the heart of the Latino and immigrant community. The project started in a Peruvian mother’s living room, expanded, relocated and now faces eviction.
Founder Xiomy de la Cruz says the basement once filled with food, clothes, diapers and essentials is nearly empty.
“It’s a very difficult moment for me and for La Bodeguita de la Gente,” de la Cruz said. “It’s very unfortunate that we have to close down. At the same time we are trying to keep our operations going from our home.”
Co-founder Ingmar Riveros says much of what they’ve built has been with the help of donations and the work of volunteers. The grassroots project operated from a basement in a commercial storefront. Recently, the commercial tenant on the lease was evicted for nonpayment. That meant the pantry had to go, too.
“So basically, as he got evicted, so were we, because we weren’t on the lease. He picked up his things and left,” Riveros said.
La Bodeguita’s volunteers have moved what’s left of their pantry to a storage facility.
In the past months, the food pantry also became a vaccine clinic and a place that facilitated information sessions on domestic violence prevention and eviction.
De la Cruz says they’re looking for a new place to relocate, but finding the necessary funding has been difficult.
“It’s not easy to think about all of the families that depend on this pantry,” de la Cruz said. “It breaks my heart to have to turn away families, many of them with small children.”
Brenda León is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.