With systemic food inequity in the U.S., small businesses have become essential to the survival of low-income communities.
“In many of our poorest communities, our Latino small business owners are the only resources. Think about communities that are considered food deserts. Oftentimes, the only accessible store is the neighborhood bodega,” said Nancy Santiago, Vice President of Hispanics in Philanthropy.
Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP) is a transnational fundraising and grantmaking organization that seeks to strengthen Latinx leadership, equity, and voice through partnerships with funders, nonprofits, and community leaders.
One of their most recent initiatives is the PowerUp Fund. For this program, they partnered with Ureeka to support 500 Latinx-owned small businesses across California, New York, and Texas — states with large numbers of small Latinx-owned companies.
Thanks to a $3 million Google grant, the PowerUp Fund will provide $5k funding and intensive mentoring to eligible Latinx small business owners, ensuring their businesses stay open through the pandemic and thrive in the long term.
“There’s a very clear need in the [Latinx] community, and that’s really why we at Google.org decided to do this,” claimed Hector Mujica of Google.org.
According to the National Council of La Raza, “counties with large Hispanic populations have a greater proportion of the people with limited access to grocery stores (29%) than other counties (21%).” These geographically isolated locations are called food deserts, which the USDA defines as areas where people have limited access to a variety of healthy and affordable food.
Besides perpetuating socio-economic injustice, food deserts are indicators of public health and safety concerns in Latinx neighborhoods. Chronic disease risk and obesity are among the consequences of living in a food desert.
“With how we are seeing Latino businesses dissolving, I am left to wonder what will happen to our communities as a whole,” shared Santiago. She continued to express her concern on the day-to-day effects of Latinx businesses closing: higher unemployment rates, fewer resources available, the vanishing of food oases, and more health complications.
The PowerUp Fund is not only about helping Latinx business owners but also the black and brown communities that they serve. As suggested by Santiago, it is predominantly minority neighborhoods that are affected by a lack of supermarkets, fresh produce, and public resources.
Many tiendas and bodegas are the ones keeping Latinx communities afloat. Therefore, to invest in Latinx-owned businesses is to invest in Latinx communities.