Guest Blog – Antonio Alanis, El Centro Hispano

As a first-generation college student and through listening to my parents’ and communities’ stories, I’ve always been motivated to help people. After graduating with my Master of Arts in Education, I searched for ways that I could have a bigger impact in the Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill-Carrboro communities and found that opportunity at El Centro Hispano. It is the perfect place for me to help improve people’s lives through education. I thoroughly enjoy providing academic support to our families, especially by providing them with the tools to strengthen their well-being. And, I love working with TABLE.

We know at El Centro Hispano that nutrition is inextricably tied to a student’s cognitive and physical development and, since a majority of our students qualify for free and reduced school lunches, we are so fortunate to partner with TABLE. By providing our families with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, TABLE’s Weekend Meal Backpack program and SnackChef program help to eliminate the nutrition and food insecurity barriers that our families may not otherwise be able to remove.

TABLE and El Centro Hispano work together to bring TABLE’s SnackChef and Weekend Meal Backpack programs to our students, both of which have become an integral part of our tutoring support program. We are able not only to provide students with academic support, but also the proper nutrition they need to grow and develop into healthy teenagers.

After working on homework for 45 consecutive minutes, our students enjoy taking a break and look forward to participating in the SnackChef program where they learn but about healthy eating habits. SnackChef volunteers deliver high-quality, well-structured lessons that teach students about fresh fruits and vegetables and encourage them to try new recipes and new food combinations.

What I really love about TABLE is that the organization integrates the child’s whole family. Students receive “take-home recipe kits” while parents and guardians receive separate weekly food bags. TABLE always inserts recipe handouts so students and families can continue to make healthy choices together throughout the week.

TABLE’s partnership ensures that our students have sustainable, year-long access to healthy fruits and vegetables, reinforcing their understanding of how to make wise eating choices. Through the weekly food bag deliveries and bi-monthly SnackChef lessons, our students are taught that fresh fruits and vegetables are tasty, nutritious, and accessible.

I’ve noticed that students who participate in SnackChef are more likely to try new foods, especially fruits and vegetables, after seeing other children taste them. Students’ take-home recipe kits also allow other family members to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables and other non-perishable foods into their daily diets, encouraging our students and their families to make healthy food choices.  

Children at every age need high-quality education and proper nutrition to nurture both their body and minds. I see it every day and know children can’t learn if they aren’t nourished. I’m so happy the kids at El Centro Hispano have access to both education and nutrition to allow them to grow into happy, healthy adults.

As education program coordinator for El Centro Hispano, Antonio oversees the organization’s bilingual pre-school where he and the pre-school teachers design a culturally-inclusive curriculum that ensures the children are academically and socially prepared for kindergarten. In addition, Antonio oversees the tutoring program for K-8th grade students in Durham and Carrboro where he works with volunteers to help students complete homework and gain academic support to succeed academically. Combined these programs support more than 160 kids ranging in age from nine months to 15 years old.

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