The Promotores Collaborative of San Luis Obispo County is one of the divisions of the Center for Family Strengthening. These bilingual and bicultural community leaders do outreach and provide resources to the Latinx community in the county. They help families navigate systems like Medi-Cal Navigator, health care (including mental health services), and food benefits. The Medical Navigator project requires paperwork and documentation gathering that can be rather confusing, so the Promotores make themselves available to assist families to fill out the Medi-Cal Application.
The Promotores are coordinated by Fernanda Lucas, who is also one of the steering committee members for the Food System Coalition (FSC). Fernanda works closely with Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia, the Program Director for the Center for Family Strengthening. This amazing local nonprofit offers myriad programs and services. Erica’s work is focused on the Promotores, and she coordinates the Child Advocacy Center of San Luis Obispo. She is also a Commissionaire of First 5 of San Luis Obispo County. Her own personal experience and knowledge of Latino culture helps to bridge gaps, create effective outreach opportunities, and empower the community. Today she works in collaboration with other agencies to ensure children and parents are receiving equal access to healthcare and services/resources needed to live a healthy life.
In 2016 the Promotores were involved in a Community Food Project (CFP) grant that was awarded to the SLO Food Bank. Their role was to receive training in nutrition education and healthy eating practices that can prevent diet related chronic disease. This was a new area of expertise for the Promotores, and the group was enthusiastic to learn more about how they could help build a healthier Latinx community!
Their training enabled them to do outreach at the Food Bank distributions, including food tasting, healthy snacks, and providing culturally appropriate recipes to take home. Erica and Fernanda emphasized that, although healthy eating was important, the real win of this project was to share with the community the importance of eating healthy to prevent chronic diseases. They shared statistics on how the Latinx community is more likely to develop chronic diseases. The Promotores' goal was to create a welcoming environment at the Food Bank distributions, and share the message that the food was there for community members.
The project really helped create a sense of welcome to the (Latinx) community. People didn't understand that the Food Bank distributions were for them, and that they would have foods that families could use. The project allowed the Promotores to explain to community members that the food was for them." - Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia, Program Director, Center for Family Strengthening
This project was the beginning of a great partnership between Promotores and SLO Food Bank, and the two organizations have been working together on subsequent grant work ever since. Erica and Fernanda have really appreciated the Food Bank’s work to reach out to the Latinx community through partners like Promotores who know the language and the culture. The impact has been exciting for them to witness! They have been able to build real trust among the Latinx community and have seen the community taking care of one another in wonderful ways, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That first CFP grant also introduced Promotores to the FSC, when they were invited to present on their work at a general meeting. They were able to represent the Latinx community voice, which they were proud to do, and glad to have another outlet for. Fernanda and Erica have seen that the FSC is a good support organization to the SLO Food Bank because of the connections it makes to other food system work in the county. They have found the FSC meetings to be informative, which keeps them aware of other agencies and the resources that they provide to the community. The FSC has helped keep connection to the larger community, which can assist and support their work in the Latinx community.
After attending the FSC meetings, I felt more informed. I learned about other county agencies that I didn't know before and I liked to have a better picture of what was happening in the community." - Fernanda Lucas, Promotores Collaborative Program Coordinator
The FSC is always grateful and excited to have the voice and participation of Promotores in our network! Center for Family Strengthening has been a great asset to San Luis Obispo County. They envision sustainable, diverse, comprehensive and equal access to healthcare and services among all the members of our community. We are honored to support them in whatever ways we are able!