“You really never know what you can offer your community and what your community can offer you unless you put yourself out there and share your ideas with the person sitting next to you,” says Brandy Fuentes-Delgado.
The rising junior did just that in February during the ROOTS (Resources, Optimism, Outreach, Targets, Support) Summit, sponsored by the University’s Collaborative for the Common Good. And since then she’s found herself and two fellow students in the midst of what she describes as one of the best experiences she’s had at Wingate. Fuentes-Delgado, Axel Velazquez and Douglas Peralta have been translating a newly created emergency COVID-19 food-access resource map into Spanish.
Already working as a research assistant for Assistant Psychology Professor Candace Lapan, earlier this academic year Fuentes-Delgado jumped at the chance to intern with the Collaborative, which had recently begun partnering with Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas. Rivendell, a self-described “nonprofit farm and good-food-advocacy and field-study organization,” is among a group of organizations putting together a comprehensive food-system map of the Charlotte area to help farms, food retailers, farm-to-table restaurants, food banks and other food-related organizations connect with one another and with the general public.
When COVID-19 hit, organizers decided to fast-forward their plans and quickly produce a map of any and all food resources, even temporary meal-delivery stations, to help combat food insecurity. The result – an interactive online map that users can tailor to meet their needs by turning on and off filters and clicking on lighted points to locate resources – works great for English speakers but does little to help those who speak Spanish. That is about to change.
“Providing bilingual information is critical to making food even more accessible during this time,” says Erin Hostetler, who coordinates the program for Rivendell. “Without a dedicated team of translators, there is no way our nonprofit would be able to complete this work.
“The CCG has also been making connections in the Union County community and has been a source of information for organizations, businesses and other entities providing resources right now. Much of our success in the county and surrounding area gives a nod to the Collaborative and Wingate University.”
It was Hostetler that Fuentes-Delgado met at the Summit.
“I told her I thought this would be an excellent resource for the Hispanic community, because there is a lot of food insecurity in the community,” Fuentes-Delgado says.
Coming up with sustainable solutions
Map creators had to first gather as much information as they could from food providers via a survey. They’ve received more than 200 responses, and Peralta has taken the lead on translating them.
“We aim to indicate what the specific organization or shop can provide, along with what special offers or inventory they might have for members of that specific regional community,” Peralta says. Velazquez will focus more on marketing the map.
Hostetler says the group has been connecting once a week via Google Hangouts to discuss their approach and workflow.
“Each week, we review milestones and discuss ways we can be most effective in this work,” she says. “After discussing the vision and plan of action, the CCG team rolls up their sleeves and gets to work. I have been impressed by their talent, enthusiasm, professionalism and how they are helping drive the project by asking the right questions.”
One of those questions is what happens once the Spanish-speaker gets the information from the map and shows up at the location. Without an on-site interpreter, does the plan fall apart?
“When Spanish people go to these resources, we have to figure out how to help bridge that communications gap there,” Fuentes-Delgado says. Because she has some experience in coding, she’s wondering if a link to a Google Translate-style function could be embedded in the map to help with transactions. Another idea would be a downloadable bilingual form on which users could mark their preferences before handing it in at the business.
“Our goal is to think of an idea that is sustainable,” Fuentes-Delgado says. Both sustainability and transferability are important to Hostetler.
“We plan to take this model and partnership with us as we continue to be connected to other regions, states and agencies looking to have similar tools for their community,” she says. “The work of the CCG and Wingate does not stop with our local community. This will have a meaningful impact in other regions too.”
The project has already meant a lot to Peralta.
“It has given me time to look deeper into what people do all over our state,” he says. “Within just a couple of weeks I learned how united and resourceful our state is. From volunteering to giving complimentary meals and products, there are always good people around us. Times like these are what create history.
“Working on the map helps me clear my mind of this whole current situation we are all facing and gives me something to look forward to while keeping me productive.”
For Fuentes-Delgado, success will come when she hears talk about the map in the Hispanic community.
“Whenever something is popular, whether it’s something on social media or an event, everyone makes sure to talk about it in person,” she says. “In the Hispanic community, there’s a lot of word-of-mouth marketing. Knowing that this is successful will be when everyone is talking positively about it.”
Hostetler expects to make the Spanish-language food map available on the Rivendell website soon.
May 7, 2020