LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Jose Alberto Figueroa is a Lancaster native. The pandemic made his already difficult life harder. On most afternoons you can find him at the Spanish American Civic Association waiting in line for food. Struggling to make ends meet, he often doesn’t know where his next meal might come from.

“Too many people here are looking for help,” Figueroa, a Lancaster resident said.

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One place he can count on is the Spanish American Civic Association in Lancaster.

“El centro hispano nos ha dado la mano. Todo el mundo de Lancaster viene en busca de ayuda aqui. Es porque no la hay,” he told abc27 in Spanish.  

Figueroa says people come here for help because it’s one of the few places in town that offer it.

Through it all, the Spanish American Civic Association (SACA) stuck by the community, opening their doors when many were shut.

In fact, food insecurity among Latinos rose from almost 16% in 2019 to more than 19% in 2020, according to Feeding America.

SACA’s chief operating officer shares that sentiment.

“A lot of individuals just can’t make ends meet nowadays. They don’t get paid enough. They have applied for SNAP, but they may not qualify. They have other expenses such as rents, utilities, even medication, and they have to determine either to feed their families or have a roof over their head,” Sandra Valdez, chief operating officer of SACA, said.

And they’re here to fill that gap. It’s a herculean effort of sorts, as they cook every meal from scratch — marinating chicken, slicing bread, and everything in between.

“Not a lot of people have the skills to cook for 250 people a day in two, three hours,” Bethzaida Morales. a cook for SACA, said.

Morales likes to call it a well-choreographed dance, adhering to a strict schedule so she can prepare and pack meals before the noon showtime.

“Every morning I get up to feed all my kids,” Morales said.

It’s a feeling that brings her so much joy because, at the end of the day, the people she serves are like family.