Roberto Hernandez rebuilds Mission District community amidst COVID-19

MISSION DISTRICT, Calif. (KGO) -- This man is helping to mobilize the Mission District community during these challenging times. His name is Roberto Hernandez, also known as "El alcalde," the Mayor of the Mission.

"My purpose in life has been to love and serve my community," said Hernandez.

As Artistic Director & Executive Producer of CANA, Hernandez leads the annual "Carnaval" celebrations in San Francisco with the goal of sharing Latino, Caribbean, and African Diasporic traditions. His goal: educate others through visual arts, community learning, and advocacy.

In addition, Hernandez's position on the Latino Task Force inspired him to launch the Mission Food Hub, an organization that provides culturally appropriate groceries for families affected by COVID-19.

"One of the things I learned about organizing is if we organize, we can create change," explained Hernandez. "And then during the pandemic, I saw people who didn't have food."

Food inequity is currently impacting over 12,000 Latinos who are unemployed living in San Francisco. Starting in May 2020, Hernandez pooled resources to provide 500 families with one grocery bag of food per week and the impact grew dramatically.

"I just started out of my house, out of my garage," he added. "And then it went from 1,000 to 3,000 to 5,000 to 9,000 families that we are providing with groceries."

Today, Mission Food Hub provides groceries three times a week to 7,000 families.

"And because people already trusted us, because we were providing them with groceries, it was a way for us to say, you know what, it's important that you get tested," said Hernandez.

In partnership with the Department of Public Health, Mission Food Hub offers free walk-through testing every Thursday on Alabama Street in San Francisco. The organization also focuses on vaccination education, offering vaccines at community events, like "Lowrider Day."

The SF Lowrider Council, for which Hernandez is founder and president, hosted this year's event on September 18th. Attendees received free vaccine shots with a special cash prize for the first 50 people to get vaccinated.

"Our way to say thank you for taking care of yourself and your family," said Hernandez.

For years, Hernandez has stayed committed to activating change within the Latino community through numerous programs and organizations. And yet, his work has only just begun.

"Everybody on my block knows they can count on me for whatever they need, and I know I can count on them," said Hernandez. "It starts with caring for each other and knowing who your neighbor is, who you live with, who you exist with."

To learn more and support Mission Food Hub, visit here.

Go here for more information about the San Francisco Latino Task Force.

To see more ABC7 Allies in Action, visit here.

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