In the small Mexican village of San Juan Cosala, less than an hour’s drive from the bustling city of Guadalajara, live Mexican people who desperately need assistance to help them. It is doubtful that any of us have experienced this level of hunger, and we recognize that this basic need must be taken care of before a person can have hope for anything better. Volunteers have been providing food for the very poor residents of this village since 1989. This feeding program is simply called, Operation Feed, and is funded and operated entirely from donations. Every peso donated is spent on food to those in dire need.
Every week volunteers donate their time to purchase, prepare, and distribute food packages to 90 families, totally approximately 719 people (249 adults and 470 children). To help the maximum number of people to survive - to keep them from starving - the limited pesos available from donations, are used to make large bulk bag purchases of rice, rolled oats and beans. The food package -- or despensa -- consists of a container of cooking oil, 3 small packages of pasta, a bag of rice, a bag of rolled oats and a bag of beans. As funds permit, the families also receive eggs, fresh vegetables, fruit and chorizo. Families with infants receive a container of powdered milk every month. There are no paid staff involved with Operation Feed.
Agustin Vazquez, owner of Viva Mexico Restaurant in San Juan Cosala, has contributed an enormous amount of time and energy into this feeding program. With his restaurant contacts, Agustin is able to buy the beans, rice and oats at a much reduced price at the Guadalajara market. Because of Agustin’s familiarity with people from this village, he is able to select the families with the most dire needs using the following criteria:
There are always many Mexican people from the village asking that they be provided with food assistance from the program. The circumstances of people receiving a despensa often change. Some people manage to find work; children grow up and go to work and are able to help their families. History has shown that those who receive assistance are also very respectful of the assistance and support they have received and often voluntarily ask to be taken off the list when their situation improves, so others can be put on the list. Because there are so many people in genuine need, it is sometimes necessary to drop some names from the list in order to add others whose needs are greater. These qualification reviews determine the applicants with the direst needs in the village. Augustin is instrumental and very vigilant in maintaining the eligibility list. When the list is updated, a new list is prepared showing the names and addresses of those who are to receive despensas for that week. All families that receive a weekly despensa get an identification card that they must show when the receive the food.
It is not Operation Feed’s intention to meet all of the food needs of the families (719 people), but to help the maximum number of people to survive - to keep them from starving. Also, many of the families had to choose between buying food or sending their kids to school. With the help given to them, many more are able to send their children to school than before. However, there are at least 20 more families that desperately need this assistance to help feed themselves and their children. It takes an average of about $300 pesos a month for their despensa.. We are funded totally by private donations. No donation is too small.
What’s in a Despensa and Who Gets Them?
Yarida is an Operation Feed recipient. She also does many extra jobs to earn money, such as selling juice throughout the village. To help her family, Operation Feed weekly provides:
We also provide school shoes in July and clothing in May and November.
For those who wish to participate, we offer small business opportunities, such as the crocheting group.
If eye glasses are needed, we provide readers and, if needed, prescription glasses.
If needed, we provide our recipients with canes, walkers, and even wheelchairs.