By Mina Corpuz, Enterprise Staff Writer | March 19, 2021
BROCKTON — Two women left their home countries of Dominican Republic and Guatemala and traveled through Mexico into the United States to flee violence and seek safety for their children.
While America is a safer place to be, there is fear from people living in a country illegally to seek help, like getting food from a pantry, they told Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey Thursday at Converge Christian Center on Main Street.
“When you don’t have documents, you’re always afraid,” said Isabel Lopez, founder of the Brockton Workers Alliance, who translated from Spanish for the women.
Efforts at the food pantry can help address food insecurity, which is disruption of eating patterns because of lack of money or resources. Healey’s office has partnered with organizations that address that issue, like the state’s four regional food banks and nonprofit Project Bread.
The state has seen the highest relative increase of food-insecure individuals in the country due to COVID-19, according to Project Bread.
“I talk about hunger because I don’t think people realize how many people are food insecure in our state,” Healey said. “We can’t tolerate that.”
Healey recognized that there is a fear and mistrust of government from immigrant communities, and it takes time to break through those barriers so that they can access support, such as food from pantries.
Fair Foods, a social services organization based in Dorchester, provides fresh produce, bread and other food for the Brockton food pantry that is surplus from wholesalers.
The Brockton Workers Alliance provides volunteers who bagged the food and gave it to people.
Mayor Robert Sullivan thanked volunteers at the pantry, saying their work helps save lives, which is what Brockton is about. He said he will continue to work with Healey’s office.
The food pantry visit was the last of six visits Healey made around the city and Randolph. She said they were an opportunity to thank people for their work to help others in need, to see what is going on in the community and to hear peoples’ stories.
Healey said the events were not campaign-related. Before the pandemic, she said her out-of-office schedule included visits around the state. It’s a way to know what peoples’ needs are and how her office can help, she said.
“(It) was opportunity to see what more my office can be doing, and it’s just as a reminder personally of why I do this work: To learn more about the needs of the people of the state and how we might be able to help,” Healey said.
In the morning, Healey visited several immigrant- and Black-owned businesses in the city with state legislators who represent Brockton to learn about the impact COVID-19 has had on small businesses and their contributions to the community.
Lady C&J Soul Food & Catering owner Cynthia Hodges told Healey about how she made and delivered free lunches to first responders and health care workers through donations and volunteers.
At Mattress Maker of New England, owner David Teixeira, a Cape Verdean immigrant, showed Healey and lawmakers the factory and showroom and spoke about efforts to keep the business open during the pandemic.
Earlier in the afternoon, Healey visited Randolph to see the city’s regional COVID-19 vaccination site.
Like Brockton, Randolph is one of the 20 communities designated by the state that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. These communities have received additional vaccine doses and are eligible for funding to help respond to the pandemic.
Healey also went to the United Way of Greater Plymouth County’s Community Connections of Brockton & The Family Center. Its services include a technology center where people can use laptops to attend virtual eviction hearings and a lab for students learning remotely.
From her visits, Healey said there is need in communities like Brockton and that longstanding disparities that have been exposed and worsened during the pandemic. Equity needs to be intentional in COVID relief efforts, she said.
“We can’t go back to the way things were,” Healey said. “We’ve got to build out in new and different ways and we have this opportunity, but we’ve got to seize it.”
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