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Claudia and Catholic Charities Fight Hunger in Nashville

Claudia Nelson moved to the United States at 14 years old after growing up in Mexico. She didn’t speak English, and faced a substantial language barrier in high school. Her parents, facing the same barriers, relied on assistance from food banks to help provide for their family during their transition. Claudia says, “When I went to school, I decided I wanted to do something for the community.” She felt she should give back to people who are going through a similar journey similar to her own. “I want to be able to do more,” Claudia continues, “I want to be able to give back to the community the way they gave back to me when I was younger. That’s why I came to work at Catholic Charities.”

A mural commissioned at Catholic Charities location in Casa Azafrán to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in 2022

Catholic Charities, a Second Harvest Partner Agency, is a cornerstone for the Hispanic Community in Nashville. Not only do they act as a Food Pantry for neighbors facing hunger, but they provide wraparound services for nearly 150 families a month. They provide families with secure access to food, diapers, hygiene products, and other necessary items. Their support goes beyond house necessities, too. Recently Claudia connected a family with affordable healthcare and dialysis. Claudia says the language barrier that some Hispanic families face challenges that native English speakers would never even consider. Filling out forms, making appointments, and paying bills are all daunting tasks for someone who doesn’t speak English. Help exists, but a lot of people just don’t know where to turn. Catholic Charities is that help.

Claudia tells us, “A lot of people who come to Catholic Charities tell us ‘I can either pay rent or pay for food.’” Claudia knows food is at the heart of relief work for Catholic Charities. Often, she finds families will come for food, but need extra assistance. She continues, “Just yesterday there was a family that asked for an emergency food box because they were in what felt like insurmountable medical debt. A $167,000 bill.” Claudia heard this and was able to connect the family with an organization that provided financial assistance. Catholic Charities knows that hunger relief work is the first step to overcoming poverty. Claudia adds, “Food is the most important thing in anybody’s life.”

“Health is everything, and without nutritious food your health just deteriorates.”

Food plays an integral role in Hispanic culture and heritage. Recently, Claudia met with a widow who was unsure how to apply for social security after her husband recently passed. Since his passing, times were hard for her, since she was also unable to work. Catholic Charities gave her a food box, and, also, a carton of eggs at her visit to Catholic Charities. Claudia says, “She cried.” Eggs play an integral role in Mexican cuisine and had been a staple of this woman’s diet her entire life. She was unable to afford something she had been eating her entire life after prices started to skyrocket. “Something so simple,” Claudia reflects, “Even if you don’t have much food you used to be able to just make eggs, beans, and rice and be good to go. Now that’s a luxury.”

Catholic Charities is a beacon of hope for neighbors in need in Nashville and particularly those neighbors in the Hispanic community. While they serve anyone who comes to their doors, almost 75% of the people they see are Hispanic. During Hispanic Heritage Month, we must take time to thank, and celebrate the transformative work that Claudia and Catholic Charities do for our community.

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