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Power of Community: Maxi Hernandez

By Rachael Lucille, Oregon Food Bank Network Communications Specialist

Maxi Hernandez arrived in the United States feeling uprooted and torn from her home country. As she searched for ways to build community, make friends and put down roots in Oregon, Maxi began to participate in informative, community-centered workshops and programs. There, Maxi learned the needs of her new community and eventually went on to become an Oregon Food Bank ambassador and the community leader we know today.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of fresh vegetables on store shelves, Maxi joined other families in her community to start a community garden. “We struggled to buy the seeds on our own or sometimes I asked the neighbor, 'Give me a twig, a little bush,' and that's how we started planting. Our garden was very productive in that season.” The harvesting of tomatoes, chilies and a wide variety of other vegetables was Maxi’s contribution to her blossoming community.

We brought them to their doors, even in small amounts, because nobody could leave their homes. So, we left vegetables at the doors of the families… it was something that motivated us to continue.

— Maxi Hernandez

From there, Yoanna, founder of Guerreras Latinas — an organization that helps empower women and train leaders — connected Maxi with Oregon Food Bank’s Food, Education, Agriculture, Solutions Together (FEAST) program to turn their COVID-19 generosity into a long-term program called Sembradoras.

Sembradoras is a Latinx gardening program that makes growing vegetables a family affair. “We get the kids involved so they can also learn about our cultures.” Through gardening, families can engage in mental health support, stress relief, exercise and community building.

Today, Maxi has put down roots on a Boring, Oregon farm where she hopes to start her own organization. “I am growing vegetables to supply our community so they will have a piece of our lands on their table — traditional vegetables from our country,” she says. In the future, Maxi hopes to grow her organization and provide employment opportunities to community members and develop educational workshops for youth.

When you like something, you do it with passion. You don't do it for work.

— Maxi Hernandez

Maxi's Harvest Event

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