Omar Romero, nutritionist at Centro Latino in San Francisco where he gives away food at the community center.
Omar Romero works at Centro Latino De San Francisco, where he gives food away to elders and seniors with disabilities, and teaches them about nutrition. Originally from El Salvador, he says helping the community had "always been my dream." Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

Omar Romero was bagging up groceries at the Centro Latino de San Francisco Community Center when he paused his work to sit down and tell us the story of one of his clients, a 70-year-old woman from his home country of El Salvador. 

She is one of the 570 participants who have collected food boxes Monday through Saturday at the Center on 15th Street. 

“This past year has been really hard,” said Romero as he sat in a now-empty computer classroom, where elderly and disabled participants once took computer literacy classes.

That was pre-pandemic, when the Centro Latino de San Francisco was a lively community center where residents created art, learned how to use computers, took chorus classes, and learned about nutrition. 

Romero, 37, is the site and nutrition manager, and his job is to give away food to seniors and those with disabilities, as well as to teach courses on nutrition. During the pandemic, that means handing out boxes as well as dropping them off for those unable to leave their homes. 

One of the people he visits is a 70-year-old woman who, before the pandemic, “would be there for every class,” he said in Spanish, and attend the monthly communal party to celebrate birthdays.  

Nowadays, when Romero drops off fruits and vegetables and checks in on her, the senior thinks she is still going to the Centro Latino for her art and exercise classes. Romero has to remind her that, no, “we come to see you, you have not been with us.” 

She was once sharp and present, but isolation has had its impact. 

“She is not the same person she was before — she doesn’t have the same stable personality,” Romero said, his voice dropping low at the memory. 

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Omar Romero working inside the Centro Latino de San Francisco.

Clara-Sophia Daly

Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys...

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2 Comments

  1. This is so sad to read and is pretty eye-opening to how people suffering from isolation and direct contact may end up with worsening mental health issues. Maybe the community center can supply residents with laptops to keep in touch remotely?

    1. Agreed with what you’re saying that a line of communication is so important for older individuals in keeping them sharp. Its hard though to find a community they can safely interact with online though.
      If the community center doesn’t have the staff to have one on one conversations with them all. Then a better alternative could be remote therapy for these residents. There is a platform (national coronavirus hotline) that provides free therapy services, and I dont think you need to have coronavirus to qualify either.

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