Food giveaways from LGBTQ youth group in Austin aim to sow goodwill among neighbors: "Community is community"

Food giveaways from LGBTQ youth group in Austin aim to sow goodwill among neighbors: “Community is community”

Bobby McGee walked down a West Side street with a load of groceries on Wednesday. The big brown bag contained his favorites of cabbage, sweet potatoes, and enough produce to last for over a week.

The West Side resident never left a grocery store—there are hardly any in the area—he left a gift in the Austin community.

“Everyone needs help, and that’s definitely a helping hand for the community,” McGee said.

Austin resident Bobby McGee with a free bag of fresh produce he got from a gift at a community center for LGBTQ youth in Austin. Giveaways are given to the community as a whole, and no registration is required.

The giveaway is the focus of a new strategy for planting goodwill in Austin by TaskForce Prevention & Community Services, a community center for LGBTQ youth of color. It was held on their site at 9 N. Cicero Ave.

Wednesday’s giveaway was the second; They plan to hold one every third Wednesday of the month.

CEO Chris Balthazar said the main goal is to tackle food insecurity in Austin, where adults have more difficulty obtaining fruits and vegetables than anywhere else on the West Side, according to the Chicago Health Atlas.

The bags contained red potatoes, sweet potatoes, oranges, onions, green peppers, celery, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, apples and grapes – provided by the Logan Corporation – as well as canned beans from the center’s own stores. They added beans at the request of recipients in the previous giveaway.

Balthasar said the focus was on healthy foods because that’s the rare thing there. “There are convenient stores but no fresh produce,” he said.

Elijah Barnes (left), a program assistant at a community center for LGBT youth in the Austin neighborhood, and Chris Balthazar, the center's executive director.

Elijah Barnes (left), a program assistant at a community center for LGBT youth in the Austin neighborhood, and Chris Balthazar, the center’s executive director.

Gifts are open to the public – no registration required – and in the second round, the bags quickly flew off the table set up by the center on Cicero Street. Passing drivers slow down and roll down their windows to get a bag; Others, like McGhee, went in the right direction.

In the back stop, Dennis Brown loaded his pickup truck with bags. He was a member of a neighboring church, known to Brown Center and Endowment; He did not intend to use the bags himself.

Instead, he planned to cook for the homeless in the neighborhood. He said that celery would become a stew; Tomatoes and onions will be for the chili.

The Austin resident appreciated helping advance his mission of providing homeless shelter, which he said began after his own experience with homelessness. “I was one of them,” he said, “and people had to help me.”

In the Center’s 32 years in the neighborhood, this is their first program explicitly directed at the greater Austin community. Most days, the center provides LGBTQ youth with education and HIV/STD prevention; assistance in finding accommodation; It provides mental health services.

DeMario Adams, outreach director at a community center for LGBT youth in the Austin neighborhood, distributes a bag of fresh produce in a gift at the center.

DeMario Adams, outreach director at a community center for LGBT youth in the Austin neighborhood, distributes a bag of fresh produce in a gift at the center.

They hope the gifts will be the start of a closer relationship with their neighbors.

“A community is a community, and they need resources too,” said Rena Ortiz, director of programs at the center.

She hopes that informal interactions with those who haven’t had many interactions with members of the LGBT community, will lead to more communication.

Ortiz, who is transgender, looks forward to an opportunity to deconstruct myths and stereotypes that anyone might have about the LGBTQ community. She said, “There is no doubt that it is taboo.”

Michael Luria is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times Via Report on Americaa non-profit journalistic program that aims to enhance the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the southern and western sides.

A table laden with bags of fresh produce in a gift at a community center for LGBTQ youths in an Austin neighborhood.

A table laden with bags of fresh produce in a gift at a community center for LGBTQ youths in an Austin neighborhood.


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