Food boxes awaiting delivery

Soul Food

An impromptu food bank opens up to serve Eugene and Springfield 

Dayanara Diaz is sleeping on the floor of her Whiteaker neighborhood hair salon, Clip Chop, when I visit. While she’s napping, volunteers are packing boxes and stuffing plastic bags full of rice and dry beans in an impromptu food bank inside a store filled with the scent of hair products. 

When she wakes up from her nap, she tells me she’s only been distributing food for a few days. And then she counts back from Friday, April 10. She realizes it’s actually been six days, but that lapse is justified because she’s been working 11 am to 1 am every day since. 

It started as a way to get food to Latinx families who were out of work from the COVID-19 crisis and didn’t know where to access social services or were afraid to. It has grown to an informal way to bring food to anyone in need. 

“I don’t ask questions,” she says. “Be honest to yourself, be honest to your heart. If you really need food, we’re there for you.” 

The impromptu food bank started April 10, when a client knocked on Diaz’s salon door. The man, her client, told Diaz that he and his wife hadn’t been working for more than a month and they have five children to feed. So she took him to Bruns’ Apple Market to buy him groceries. When the manager of the store heard about the story, he offered to buy the groceries. 

After that, Diaz went around to local stores to get donations. Later that day, she posted on her salon’s Facebook page asking for community support in gathering food and distributing it to those in need. Since then, people have dropped off boxes of food and money — and even bread from Franz Bakery.

Johanis Tadeo, who works at Community Alliance of Lane County, says he and other volunteers also started distributing food to people in need in Springfield. CALC donated $500 for the food and volunteers sold aluminum cans to buy more food. They were able to provide 15 food boxes. 

When Diaz heard about Tadeo’s efforts, he says that she reached out to him. In Springfield, the focus is on the Latinx community. In Eugene, Diaz and her volunteers deliver to anyone. 

“She’s been a great help to us,” Tadeo says. “She’s provided us with 100 food boxes for Springfield and for Latinx under-represented low income families.” 

Tadeo and others distribute food boxes on Saturdays at The Arc Lane County, located at 4181 E Street in Springfield. 

CALC president Rico Perez says not enough outreach from the government and nonprofits went out in Spanish and a lot of undocumented immigrants are being cautious. He says CALC is a social justice human rights nonprofit, but right now it’s about responding to the community. 

“The need has everything to do with the lack of outreach to the Latinx community,” he says.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Springfield’s Hispanic population is 12 percent. A recent report from Oregon Health Authority shows 22 percent (or 340) of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 are Hispanic, showing the community is especially vulnerable to the virus. 

“Everybody needs services right now,” Perez says. “But the communications with the Latinx community has been almost nil until we started up.”

Perez says that even if a nonprofit like FOOD for Lane County had better bilingual outreach with the Latinx community in Springfield, there are still fears about turning in documentation to prove residence. 

Traditional food banks like FOOD for Lane County ask for some documents like proof of residence, though it’s not required to get food. Diaz says she doesn’t ask for any proof. 

“It would be better the way we’re doing it because they trust us and their information is going nowhere,” he adds. 

At Diaz’s hair salon, she has various boxes of food that fills up during the day but then gets sent out to those in need. People drop off money so she can buy groceries. Each food box is filled with about $50 worth of food like peanut butter, instant ramen, oatmeal, salt, sugar and fruit. In just the six-day timespan, Diaz and her volunteers gave out nearly $4,000 worth of food. 

The food goes fast, Tadeo says. And he says that many of the volunteers who help out are also those who were in need.

Diaz makes sure no one enters her salon without wearing a mask and gloves, so when someone drops off food, either she or a volunteer brings it in. They then disinfect what is donated. When people call to get a food box, she asks how many boxes they need and has a volunteer drop it off. 

Diaz says she needs not just donations — cash or food — but also volunteers. Pointing to food boxes waiting by the door, she says the drivers who were delivering are exhausted and aren’t picking up their phone.

“I’m doing this out of my heart, so you have to do the same thing — come and donate out of your heart,” Diaz says. “I’m doing it because of COVID-19. I want older people to stay at home.”

If you’re in need, want to donate or volunteer, call Clip Chop at 541-870-0941 or contact CALC at 541-485-1755. 

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