Sustaining & Innovating Community Programs During a Pandemic

COVID-19 has permeated our society in a way that has dramatically changed the way we live, play and serve. As an organization that works directly with under-resourced communities to address barriers to health, COVID-19 has challenged us to develop creative methods to ensure the continuation of key programming. That is why I am proud to share the efforts of our Community Initiatives team that highlights not only the adaptability of our team but provides tangible approaches for other community-based organizations as well.

Below, are a few examples of pivots and adjustments the team has made to everyday programming in light of this pandemic:

Online Educational Meetings

National Health Foundation’s (NHF) Health Academy is a youth-led program that focuses on identifying physical and social barriers to health in South Los Angeles. The group meets once a week on-site in local schools and in the community. Now, all in-person sessions have transitioned to virtual meetings using the online platform, Zoom. By hosting these sessions virtually, students participate in conversations surrounding the health implications of the pandemic in their community and exchange information on local resources.

Similarly, NHF’s Pico-Union resident group, Comunidad de NHF (NHF Community), has moved all in-person meetings online where staff and community members share updates on local resources for how to navigate the pandemic. This virtual touchpoint has provided a much-needed space for community members to turn to one another for support during this crisis.

Virtual Enrollments

As part of NHF’s CalFresh Connection program, NHF Promotoras Fortina and Gilda are responsible for conducting in-person outreach to provide resources for families and individuals experiencing food insecurity. In addition to providing an exhaustive list of community resources, they also enroll qualified applicants who are eligible for CalFresh food stamps. They are now conducting outreach online via social media and over the phone – checking in with current applicants and enrolling new applicants daily.

Pre-Recorded Videos

Beyond CalFresh enrollments, NHF Promotoras also facilitate in-person cooking demonstrations as part of the CalFresh Healthy Living nutrition education program. These in-person demonstrations are now pre-recorded videos in which our Promotoras showcase how to make healthy recipes at home. These videos are published on NHF’s Facebook group NHF Healthy Parents (NHF Padres Saludables). Videos also include recommendations for physical activity at home and with family members.

Volunteer Opportunities

Every week, three to four staff members from the Community Initiatives team volunteers at Santee Education Complex, a local high school within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) as part of the district’s Grab ‘n Go Meals program. Currently, Santee is one of the busiest food distribution sites packing and delivering over 6,000 meals a day. NHF CalFresh Promotora Fortina is also conducting individual drop-offs of lunch meals for students in her neighborhood to assist families who work during program hours.

As an organization that works to eliminate health barriers in under-resourced communities, we acknowledge that our work is more crucial now than ever. That is why as fellow neighbors and community members, we must find new avenues to continue supporting one another. I have no doubt that we will prevail through this crisis but only if we work together.