Addressing housing needs and food insecurity - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2022 newsletter


Melissa and Peter Altman, El Salvador

Pete with a family whose house is being built through the El Cedro housing program

Greetings from El Salvador!

We hope this finds you well. It is hard to believe that we are now in our ninth year as Maryknoll lay missioners working in El Salvador. Despite many challenges, El Salvador is a beautiful country and we continue to be humbled by how warm and welcoming the people are.

In response to pressing needs, we have switched our focus to address the food insecurity in two communities where we live and work: Zaragoza and the community of El Cedro, where Pete continues to be involved in a program to build dignified houses for mothers and their children.

Melissa talks with local women in a rural community

Almost half of all Salvadorans experienced food insecurity last year. This year, with inflation affecting the price of staple foods, even more people are experiencing challenges in meeting their nutritional needs. The price of beans — a staple in the diet of Salvadorans and a principal source of protein — has increased 37% in the past year. El Salvador uses the U.S. dollar. In the communities where we work, most families are living on an income of under $300 a month. With such limited resources, the recent rise in prices means less food for these families to eat.

Currently we are working with partners in a rural part of Zaragoza to identify families in extreme need of food support. These families are receiving much-needed beans, rice, flour and cooking oil. Last month, we sat with a committee of local women to identify the first families to receive assistance.

These women have been engaged in outreach for years and know which of their neighbors are most in need. When we finished the discussion and went over the list, one woman said quietly, “I need help, but I would never take help before the people on this list.” Our hope is that we will continue to expand the assistance we can give to families in crisis.

We are collaborating with missioner Ann Greig to move the Soy Nutrition Program, which she co-founded in 1994, to our local community to address the rising food insecurity. Ann will be retiring in 2023, but this transition ensures that her lifelong mission to provide nutrition and education to those most in need will continue.

Our family in Usulutan, El Salvador

We have established partnerships with preschools in these communities and hope to provide soy milk and protein-enriched snacks daily to over 160 children in 2023. Many of the families struggle to meet the nutritional needs of their growing children, so supplementing their protein intake in school is essential to ensure healthy development.

Our family continues to love El Salvador and feel blessed to have the opportunity to be here. Eli starts high school in August, and Evey starts middle school. Schools in El Salvador were virtual for more than two years, but this spring both kids finally went back to school full-time and were able to participate in afterschool sports and activities.

Eli has grown what feels like two feet since the start of the pandemic and is now the starting forward for the school’s varsity volleyball team. Evey continues practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu and chess. We are very excited that Peter’s daughter, Mariana, and her husband will be welcoming a baby boy in July!

As always, we appreciate your thoughts, prayers and support, which allow us to work with the Salvadoran people for a better future.

Melissa and Pete

Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!


Melissa and Peter Altman
Melissa and Peter Altman, with their two children, Eli and Evey, are serving as Maryknoll lay missioners in El Salvador.