Senior Grant Spotlight: Mano a Mano Food Pantry

a team of volunteers at a local food pantry distribution smile and pose for the camera

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pasadena’s National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) implemented a plan to urgently respond to the twin public health and unemployment crises that were rapidly unfolding. NDLON quickly launched a food pantry program called Mano a Mano (Hand in Hand) at the Pasadena Job Center on North Lake Avenue to provide subsistence aid to immigrant workers and families.

Pasadena Community Foundation has supported Mano a Mano with several grants since 2020. NDLON will use its 2022 Senior Grant funding to build capacity for its food pantry with the purchase of a storage unit and food supplies, as well as hiring additional staff. 

Food Insecurity Grows with Inflation 

The Mano a Mano program hosts one dedicated food distribution for older adults each month, during which approximately 200 clients receive food. With additional food distribution events throughout each month, the food pantry supports 1,250 individuals of all ages.

Recent inflation has taken a toll on the community, notes Ishell Linares-Soto, NDLON’s Co-Director of Development. “We are seeing a rise in senior citizens and multi-generational families seeking assistance, (and) we expect this number to increase in the coming months. At our most recent general distribution, we saw an approximate increase of 25% more people seeking assistance.” Clients have shared with staff that thanks to the food distributions, they are better able to pay their rent or cover their gas so they can get to and from work.

A local food distribution for seniors - a staff member assists an elderly client with fruit selection
Mano a Mano staff member Nancy (right) assists an elderly client with produce selection.

Food comes with Respect, Care, & Dignity 

On a recent Friday when PCF staff visited, the food distribution was busy with seniors who arrive by car and those who stand patiently in line to await their turn. Volunteers work diligently to fill bags and monitor the lines. Once at the tents, clients are assisted by staff and volunteers, who point out selections and help fill carts with dairy products, fresh pastries and bread, a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit, bagged salad kits, and much more. The care and respect for each client was evident — something Linares-Soto says is a key tenet of the food program:

“Mano a Mano prides itself in having a deep understanding of the community it serves, and this is reflected on how we run our program, including ensuring that the food we offer is culturally relevant. As a result, our program now serves as a model for other area food pantries, as well as partner food programs throughout the country.”

A senior man selects food from a food pantry distribution tent
Mano a Mano staff help a client choose milk and yogurt for his bag.

About PCF’s Senior Grant Program

The PCF Senior Grant Program launched in 2007 to support Pasadena-area nonprofits that assist the “frail elderly” – aging individuals who experience physical limitations, economic hardship, or mental health issues. The grant program falls under PCF’s Human Services area of interest.  Since 2007, PCF has awarded 82 grants totaling $700,000 to 21 unduplicated organizations.

In 2022, six organizations received Senior Grant funding totaling $64,000:

  • Armenian Relief Society
  • Huntington Health
  • National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
  • Pacific Clinics
  • Pasadena Senior Center
  • Pasadena Village