To celebrate Women’s History Month, Lorena reflects on the contributions of women throughout history and shares her success story as a Mother and Director.
Her dedication as a leader to the community reminds us that on the road to achieving equity, we must find strength in ourselves and purpose in our mission.
Serving FIND Food Bank for over six years, Lorena worked her way up the ranks at FIND to earn her current role as Director of Community Impact. She shares how her dedication to the community developed, and how she felt empowered working to provide better opportunities and resources for her community.
How did you get your start at FIND Food Bank?
I started as an outreach worker with FIND Food Bank in 2013. I was doing certified enrollment counseling for those who wanted to apply for insurance and healthcare.
That was a one-year grant agreement that we had, and then after the one-year commitment, I got promoted to be a CalFresh Worker. The CalFresh Outreach program helps qualifying individuals sign up for additional food assistance in the form of SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, WIC, P-EBT, and other financial resources. Through that, I gained experience at the food bank and was able to promote into Agency Relations Coordinator. Year after year, I took on another program and coordinated those programs and grew until my roles as the Director of Community Impact.
What motivated you to take on those programs and assume a leadership role?
I was able to see the need in the community. Every program was tailored to a specific segment of the population it was serving and that really excited me. The children’s program and the senior’s program were two of my favorites because you get to have that client interaction, and then see what the services mean to them and their families.
I grew up in the east valley in Coachella. I was born in Indio, raised in Coachella. I went to Coachella Valley High School. I think I went to one of the schools in the Valley that had the highest rate of free and reduced-price meal participation. Growing up in that environment really motivated me to give back. Coachella Valley High School is one of the largest farm working community schools, and most of the children have parents who are migrant farmworkers. For me, coming from that space, being able to have that experience and give back is everything.
How does your role at the food bank give you a platform to make a difference in the community, especially for women who are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men and are disproportionately affected by hunger?
I think lived experience helps me. Also, being a mom myself. Knowing that as a mother, you always put your children and your family first. That really resonates with me given all the mothers that we serve, and why it’s so important to give back to the community. I take great, great pride in that.
How does your work at FIND help you have an impact on women in the community specifically?
I see it through all our programs. So of course, CalFresh is one that offers self-sufficiency. Through that program women and mothers can go out and purchase food for their families and it is the foods that they like to eat. We offer emergency food assistance at our community Mobile Markets and agency distribution sites. Then we also offer an abundance of additional resources through our community health workers. We act as a safety net for the community as far as providing resources and helping any woman with whatever challenge they’re facing get to the other side of it.
What advice would you give to girls who want to be leaders or who want to get involved in helping their community?
I would say, to do whatever it takes to be where you need to be. Don’t limit yourself. I never thought that I would be in a space where I can impact the community or that I would be able to provide so many programs and insight. Sometimes you set your own limitations on what you think or expect from yourself. Just make sure that you don’t put those limits on yourself. See your worth.
Do you have a female role model?
My grandmother always inspired and motivated me in every way. People talk about legacy and what they leave behind. I feel like her legacy always lives on through me. It’s not necessarily what you receive, say monetarily, but what you can leave in your children. I feel like for her, she’s always instilled strength. She always believed in me, and she’s always been a hard worker. It motivates me to live up to that.