In late March 2020, Danny Hernandez posted on his personal Facebook page, simply asking if anyone in his community needed help with food in light of Covid-19-related job losses and food insecurity.
The immediate response was overwhelming.
“[Community members] called us and they said, ‘this family does not have food,’” said Hernandez. “It was very emotional, to be honest with you.”
He received reports of people who were living off rations of one cookie or a piece of bread per week.
Hernandez assembled a team of volunteers and went to work. The team included Danny's father, Cirilio Hernandez, and Danny's business partner, Jose Silva. The volunteers worked with local tiendas in Monroe and Lynnwood to gather supplies for meals kits.
These meal kits are called dispensas. A package of dispensas includes five pounds of meat, beans, rice, pozole, and canned foods.
Food supplies for meal kits were purchased with monetary donations that were in turn matched by local stores. The dispensas were assembled in local restaurants that served as commissary kitchens.
More donors began to show up and chip in.
One generous donor wrote out a check for $1,600. When matched by a store owner at 50%, that generous gift translated into $2,400 in “free” food for people in need in the community.
“It’s one of the best feelings I’ve had,” Hernandez said of the generosity he’s seen.
Within a few weeks the scale of the operation had swollen. The volunteers were giving away 1,000 meals a week -– a rate that they are still matching to this day.
Mr. Hernandez and company also coordinated an effort to mass-produce homecooked tamales for frontline workers at the Valley General Hospital in Monroe. They worked to produce and deliver hundreds of meals to hospital workers.
Danny Hernandez, age 44, is a natural connector in his community. He manages Promociones Nayarit, an entertainment company that puts on four Mexican rodeo events per year. Each rodeo attracts about 14,000 attendees, with 30 vendors.
These quarterly Mexican rodeos at the Evergreen State Fair Park attract people from throughout the entire region for a full day of bull riding, delicious food, and community connection.
These are the community connections that Danny Hernandez has at his disposal: the social capital to get things done during crisis.
“My father raised us like that,” says Mr. Hernandez of the generosity that drives his altruistic efforts in the Latino community. “Like, ‘if I have food, you have food. Together we’ll be a better place. That’s how we say it.”
Header and taco photos courtesy Unsplash.
Mexican rodeo photo courtesy Miguel Gonzalez Photography
All other photos courtesy Danny Hernandez.