In January 2022, Metro Health created the Policy and Civic Engagement Office (PaCE Office) to support cross-sector partnerships and promote equitable health outcomes through systems change initiatives.
PaCE staff facilitate policy and systems change work with a commitment to include people with lived experience as decisions makers, advance equity, and build the capacity of its members to combat systemic racism, address health inequities, and influence the social determinants of health.
PaCE is housed within the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and will host three work groups — food insecurity, housing stability, and access to respectful care.
The Harlandale Sunshine Pantry is part of the food insecurity work group. The pantry’s motto is “when you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine.”
The pantry was created in Oct. 2020 by co-founder Lotus Rios, her friends, and family members to help those who were elderly and disabled.
While delivering food, Rios saw a real need in the South Side community.
“It wasn’t a need that was created by the quarantine, it was created before then,” Rios said.
Food insecurity can affect more than just day to day lives beyond food. Rios said it affects your mental health and those with dietary restrictions such as gluten allergies or diabetes.
“When you don’t have the proper kind of food to keep yourself nourished, not just your mind, it creates a lot of things,” Rios said.
Rios said this can create depression, because those facing food insecurity feel they failed at something.
To help address food insecurity, Rios said talking to local officials and making your voice heard is important. In addition, donating to local food pantries and visiting with community panties to understand their needs can also help.