This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Project Bread connected with one of our community partners serving the Asian community in Quincy to learn more about what they do and the people who make it happen.
In 2020, 14.2% of Quincy residents were experiencing food insecurity, and more than half of residents eligible for SNAP are not enrolled. There is also a vibrant immigrant population, with nearly a third of Quincy residents identifying as immigrants. In meeting the needs of this diverse community, Summer (Shuhuan) Lu and Daisy (Xiaoe) Ma of Quincy Community Action Programs shared their stories.
Daisy first immigrated to the United States with her family from China over 10 years ago, and getting settled in the U.S. wasn’t easy. It was a new country, a new language, and making everything work was a challenge. Still, Daisy’s parents sought support and signed up for SNAP, Fuel Assistance, Mass Health, and Financial Aid. Daisy still remembers walking into a Fuel Assistance office with her mom, seeing her work with a translator to receive service, and thinking that she wanted to help people like this one day herself. When her family faced housing issues and turned to the Chinese Progressive Association in Boston, they received assistance in going through the court process, legal aid, and understanding the system. These experiences stayed with her as she went to Salem State University and studied social work. She also went to Suffolk University for a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management. And now she has landed her dream role as a Lead Client Services Specialist, working with immigrants and other clients who need support navigating the benefits and opportunities available to them.
Summer more recently immigrated to the U.S. in February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and everything shut down. A lot changed very rapidly for her, but she spent time with her uncle, aunt and cousins in Brooklyn for a while. Eventually, she made her way back up to Massachusetts and began taking English classes through the Asian American Civic Association and started working on her degree from Bunker Hill Community College in Education and Administrative Support. When she first came up from NYC, she actually was a client at QCAP’s food pantry and receiving their support as she sought to support her family. She was warmly welcomed into what she describes as “a loving atmosphere,” and she wanted to be able to give back and help other clients in need. She started out just looking for volunteer opportunities, but now, she is a full-time Food Center Worker, balancing her work with studying on the weekends.[
In their day-to-day work, both Daisy and Summer spend time working with QCAP clients to ensure they are well-taken care of. Daisy splits her time between the Energy Department, working on fuel assistance, and the Food Center, assisting clients with SNAP applications and food resources. She’s regularly conducting outreach, making referrals for additional services, walking people through applications and assistance, and generally being a friendly face in QCAP’s recently opened Resource Center for community members who walk in. Summer spends her time focused on the Food Center, connecting with new and existing clients, filling out intake forms, coordinating food delivery services, and providing materials to clients in their first language.
Still, they both expressed that language can be one of the biggest barriers in their work. For Daisy, it’s specifically one of the reasons why she wants to stay in the human service field: to help non-English speaking clients to receive assistance that they are qualified for. For Summer, the challenge has been personal, as she herself is seeking to understand what her clients need as she improves her English speaking skills over time. She has appreciated being able to lean on her colleagues and her supervisor, Melinda Alexander, for guidance in serving clients both face-to-face and over the phone.
Summer shares, “I hope that more people will get to know about QCAP and our food pantry. I hope more people in need can get help and improve their lives here with us.”
Daisy reflects, “Education is extremely important, especially to children from low income families who do not have special talents and connections. I urge children to go to college, stick to it, study hard, finish college, and don’t give up. It is because you would gain knowledge, skills, and connections you need to enhance your life, your family life, and take you to the next level for a better quality life. My brother is one example of success: he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He now works for a company as a mechanic engineer and an assistant manager. If he didn’t go to college, he won’t be where and who he is today.
“Another point I want to say is that with everything going on in the world, I hope everyone can be respectful and kind to each other regardless of your social class and social status, where you are from, and who you are. No violence, no racism but LOVE.”
In 2021, QCAP connected 116 individuals with SNAP application assistance, through on-site outreach and enrollment at their food pantry, and they served 4,559 individuals with nutritious healthy food, toiletries, diapers, and period supplies through their food pantry. The work being done by Summer, Daisy, and the rest of their team has had a huge impact in Quincy, and Project Bread is proud to partner with an organization committed to feeding their community and supporting people through the ongoing effects of the pandemic.