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St. Luke’s supports healthy decisions at Hispanic Center food pantry

At the Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley’s Food Pantry, the food is meticulously organized on shelves like a grocery store, with color-coded charts in each section, educating their visitors about making healthy decisions in what they choose. The patrons may select from a variety of available items according to their preferences, including fruits and fresh vegetables, dry and canned goods, meats, as well as household and personal hygiene supplies.

The HCLV had the forethought to stock an aisle with culturally-appropriate foods – funded through the Volunteer Services of St. Luke’s through internal fundraising – so Hispanic/Latino visitors have the ability to create meals they are familiar with.

St. Luke’s has also been providing a steady stream of volunteers who have been able to help restock, clean, and organize the shelves. Dr. Kara Mascitti, St. Luke’s Chief Wellness Officer, organizes an annual Physician’s Family Day when the doctors bring their families to volunteer. They have completed many projects, including painting the pantry, packaging the food and organizing the shelves. Other St Luke’s volunteers have helped with restocking, cleaning and managing inventory, to help keep the pantry running in its seamless fashion.

The pantry is open five days a week to provide appointment-based services for eligible folks from Northampton County. Once eligibility has been established, people are able to schedule a 30-minute window to “shop,” when they have the freedom to choose the food they prefer to eat instead of being given a predetermined box of sustenance they may not want or eat, creating less waste.

Volunteers and staff are available to help visitors choose and package their selections, but also encourage the patrons who use the pantry three or more times to consider HCLV’s case management services that may better serve their needs.

In addition to providing a strong volunteer base, St Luke’s led the multi-million-dollar effort to renovate the facility. The network also provided new furnishings.

The St Luke’s Community Health Department supported the Hispanic Center through staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic by lending crucial staff members to ensure that LVHC programs could remain open and operating throughout those challenging times.

“As the prices of food go up, it gets harder and harder for us,” said Hector Rios, a new recipient of LVHC services. “We are very appreciative of the services here. We need this place, and they treat us with dignity and respect.”

As prices continue to rise, so do the number of recipients of LVHC services. Lifting a community up requires strong, committed stakeholders. If you want to support the Lehigh Valley Hispanic Center’s food pantry, volunteer or donate, please contact the center at (610)868-7800 or hclvinfo@hclv.org.

PRESS PHOTO COURTESY SLUHN Hispanic Center Executive Director Victoria Montero, who also serves as St. Luke's Health Equity Initiatives, Community Health and Preventive Medicine manager, volunteers in the food pantry.