shopping with food vouchers

Food Relief that Feels Close to Home for Migrant Families in Mexico

When you’re hungry–when you and your kids have been hungry for a long time–you’re grateful for whatever food comes your way. Knowing your kids are going to bed with a full belly is priceless!

When you’re hungry, and the food you’re provided is the food you recognize–food you know how to cook, food that brings comfort–it gives more than just nutrition. It heals hearts.

Together, our community provides food relief for migrant and refugee families in northern and southern Mexico. The base issue is the same: families fleeing for their lives can’t bring food with them, and they can’t legally work while waiting for their status to be decided. These families too often go hungry. Food is the short-term solution for hunger, but not all food solutions are the same.  

Our response for hungry migrant families is tailored to the needs of those we serve. Our response reflects the changing situations on the ground. It is the best way we know to build community with those who have yet to find a safe place to land.

Food for Shelters and Homes that Shelter

We partner with a number of migrant shelters, to fill gaps and provide for needs not being met by government agencies or other donors. Recently we’ve taken care of practical needs like maintaining water filters and repairing broken windows. These same shelters sometimes experience food shortages—there simply isn’t any food on the shelves to offer those currently staying at the shelter. In those circumstances, we’re able to buy food in bulk, and fill up the shelves until more funds arrive.

Sometimes families have to wait many months for their request for asylum to be heard. It’s not unusual for multiple families to pool their money to rent the cheapest place they can find. They have a roof over their heads, but nothing left to feed themselves. In those circumstances, we’re sometimes able to bring food directly to families. We met with Haitian families in southern Mexico, crowded in homes without furniture or doors, trying to survive until they got an answer to their asylum request. For those families, the heavy boxes of food we bring to the door makes all the difference in being able to hang on a little longer.

Migrant families who pause for a rest at this safe house can cook food the way their family likes it best. Photo by Fernando Jose Rodas Barragan.

Food That’s Familiar

For years, a family in southern Mexico has opened their home to any migrants passing by who need a little rest. There is always a place to sit in the shade, to rest. If the family has food, they share what they have. If the lemons on the trees are ripe, there is lemonade to drink. When the migrants have gained back a little strength and are ready to move on, they say good-bye and pray for their journey.

At this safe house, there has always been the spirit of generosity, of sharing what the family had. Together as a community, we helped the family extend that generosity farther. We created a kitchen space, and filled it with food from a wide range of cultures, so migrant families from Haiti, or Honduras, or Venezuela, or Cameroon, can cook food that they know to feed their families. At this point in their journey, most families haven’t eaten in days. To have access to familiar food strengthens their body and their courage.

For families who decide to stay in the area, try to make a life for themselves, we offer a food solution that also builds community. These families receive vouchers accepted at a local grocery store. They can choose the foods that their families enjoy the most, and that stretch the farthest. They get to experience the joy that comes with choice–something they rarely get to experience as they work to make a new life. 

Months spent at migrant shelters drag. Having the opportunity to work and provide fresh food for your family and others at the shelter, makes the time much more enjoyable. Photo by Fernando Jose Rodas Barragan.

Food that’s Fresh

For migrants who cross into Mexico, and have to wait months to hear if their asylum request will be granted, it’s difficult to fill the time. They aren’t legally allowed to work. They don’t know the local community. And frankly, a lot of local families are tired of the way their lives have been disrupted by tens of thousands of migrants moving through their towns. The days are usually spent at the shelter, which is safe. But also very boring. Men at the shelter are used to working long days to feed their families. A rest after the dangerous journey fleeing home is welcome, of course. But then time drags.

A unique partnership with a migrant shelter and a local farming family, allows migrants waiting in a shelter to work on the farm, if they’re interested. Migrants receive a cash stipend, they get to spend their days outside on a beautiful property, most learn new skills, they help the farm, all while providing the families in the shelter with fresh vegetables.

What was once a piece of jungle is a well organized farm plot. At the moment, iguanas are eating more than their share of the produce. But for migrant families who don’t have regular access to fresh vegetables–and maybe haven’t for years–the fresh greens that come from the farm and make their way into meals for everyone staying at the shelter, their share of produce is quickly eaten!

Fresh vegetables transform shelter meals into something even more nutritious. Photo by Fernando Jose Rodas Barragan.

Hunger—it’s something many of us have experienced. But for migrants and refugees traveling thousands of miles to find a safe place to land, it can be hard to find food that nourishes their bodies and their hearts. By listening to the needs of those we meet, and deciding on the best way to meet those needs together, we’re able to extend our community a little farther.