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Kaitlyn McLeod, 21, prepares free samples of vegan chili mac for a St. Vincent de Paul’s Mobile Food Pantry distribution event in Boise. McLeod created flyers with recipes and other nutrition info in Swahili, French, Arabic and Kinyarwanda.

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Kaitlyn McLeod, 21, is set to graduate with a degree in health studies after the fall semester at Boise State University. Since September, McLeod has been working as an intern at the St. Vincent de Paul Mobile Food Pantry, a service that brings boxes of food as well as cooking instructions and recipes to families in need at local apartment complexes. When McLeod realized that for most of the families, English was not their first language, she began putting together a program that would “speak” to everyone.

April Neale, spokesperson for St. Vincent de Paul Southwest Idaho, calls McLeod “a superstar volunteer student helping out neighbors in need.” Neale said McLeod worked with the mobile food pantry team to create a new nutrition program with recipes and ingredients curated for the dishes.

Communication, though, was problematic. “The communities we serve with our mobile food pantry speak many different languages and are from diverse cultural backgrounds,” Neale said. The nonprofit hired translators for the informative flyers and McLeod jumped right in.

“She has a real compassion for our clients and wants to make sure no one in Boise is food insecure, especially this time of year,” said Neale.

McLeod has twice taken the flyers now printed in four different foreign languages, and which include instructions on how to cook the food the families receive as well as recipes they can try, to the communities the pantry serves. The flyers are in Arabic, Swahili, French and Kinyarwanda, an African language spoken in Rwanda, said McLeod. “Our first time was a trial and error process and I did not see one person with English as their first language.”

McLeod said the mobile food pantry had to shift gears after the pandemic hit to figure out how to be able to deliver food boxes to those who needed it, safely. She is proud they have been able to help so many.

“Since June, we’ve delivered food to 1,085 families and 2,893 individuals,” she said last month.

Jeanne Huff is the community engagement editor for the Idaho Press. You can reach her at 208-465-8106 and follow her on Twitter @goodnewsgirl.

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