Getting food to those in need during El Salvador’s quarantine - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
Home » El Salvador » Getting food to those in need during El Salvador’s quarantine

Unloading the rice, beans and manna at the first distribution point at the Palacios family in the community Las Valencias.

In early April, despite a national quarantine in El Salvador, Ann Greig traveled across San Salvador to pick up three tons of rice, beans and soy from Nuevas Horizontes Para Los Pobres (New Horizons for the Poor), a local foundation. She was on a mission to distribute the food to families in need.

Ann co-founded the Health Through Nutrition Soy Project in 1994. The project strives to improve the health of Salvadorans who have limited means, especially malnourished children and pregnant women. Based in San Ramón, a district of San Salvador, it serves some 250 individuals from 50 families with fresh soymilk and other items such as banana soy bread, beans and rice, pasta and soy pancakes.

Veronica Quintanilla and Cristina Palacios receiving food in Las Valencias.

The soy program regularly receives donations from Nuevas Horizontes, and the foundation reached out to her right after the March 21 announcement of the national quarantine to tell her that they had recently received a shipment of food.

Ann realized that this was an opportunity for her to get food into the hands of people in nearby communities who struggle to survive and are now unable to leave their homes to earn money to feed their families. She says, “I kept hearing people in the community ask, ‘What are we going to do?’ So I asked myself, how can we get food to people who are unable to work?”

Ann loaded her pickup truck up with as much food as she could and made three trips to deliver it. She had two men to help her. For physical distancing, one of them rode in the bed of her pickup, while the other sat in the backseat. All three of them wore masks.

About leaving her house during the strict quarantine, Ann says, “Initially I was afraid because I had heard how strict they were about enforcing the quarantine, but I knew that something had to be done to get food to the people. We were stopped at road blocks three times by the police and military, but there was no problem once I told them that I was delivering humanitarian aid.”

Ann brought the bulk of the food to two very poor rural communities up on the San Salvador Volcano: Las Valencias, which has 100 families, and Las Nubes, which has 25 families. Ann has a relationship with these two high-needs communities through her base community, Pueblo de Dios en Camino (People of God on the Journey).

As a thank-you, David Luna gives Ann some Flor de Izote (the national flower of El Salvador, which grows on giant yucca).

“I drove as far as I was able to on dirt roads, and then people helped carry the rice and beans,” Ann says. “People were visibly relieved when my truck pulled into the communities with the food. I was impressed when a woman lifted a 100-pound bag! All were so grateful to receive this food. In the middle of everything, it alleviates the concern of having no food in the house. I told them ‘Remember, whenever you’re able to do something like this, it is because of a chain of people: donors who provide the money for the food, the soy program, Pueblo de Dios and people in the local community who pick up and distribute it.’”

She adds, “I have said many times that being a Maryknoll lay missioner is a privilege. In responding to the emergency situation here with the distribution of food for families without employment, I have to say a big thank you for God’s love and for all the hands that participated in this act of solidarity.”

The people from the two communities worked as a team to unload the food from Ann’s truck, while practicing social distancing.

Now Ann is working on figuring out how to get food to other beneficiaries of her soy program. “Some of our beneficiaries live in gang-controlled territories, so we can’t deliver to them.”

She is making food packages and working with people in the community to figure out how to distribute it, especially to the elderly. “What concerns me the most,” she says, “is the elderly in our community, who are at risk, so we’re working hard to figure out how to get support to them.”

Based on Ann’s 38 years in mission, there’s no doubt that she’ll figure it out.

Photos by Ann Greig


Peter Altman
Peter Altman is Maryknoll Lay Missioners' regional director for El Salvador, Haiti and the U.S.-Mexico border. He accompanies internally displaced people in church-run shelters.