Honoring AAPI Heritage Month

May 14, 2024

May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month! AAPI Heritage Month began in the 70s as several resolutions each proposing a week or two to honor the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in America. In 1990, the separate weeks of celebration finally became a full month of recognition for the rich history and culture of Asian and Pacific Islander peoples.  This year’s theme for AAPI Heritage Month is “Advancing Leaders Through Innovation”.  

Despite being the fastest-growing minority group in the country, there is also the widest wealth gap. It’s often difficult to discuss solving this issue because research into the quality of life experienced by AAPI people is incredibly minimal. Between 1992-2018, only .17% of the National Institutes of Health’s budget was for studying Asian American and Pacific Islander people. This is an incredible disservice because of how vast and diverse AAPI communities are. 

Asia is the most populous continent, and combined with all of the countries in Oceania, AAPI as a category encompasses over half of the world’s population and over 2,750 spoken languages alone. There is a wide variety of cultures present, which impacts how these groups and individuals experience integration into American culture, politics, and economics. There is not a single brushstroke statement that can be made to encompass all of these unique experiences in the American melting pot. 

Overall, AAPI Americans have a low poverty rate at 13.8%; however, when looking at ethnic groups that make up the overall stat, there are alarming rates of poverty and food insecurity including 38% of Hmong people, 29% of Cambodian, and 25.1% of Malaysians. If that isn’t concerning enough, AAPI people are the least likely to apply for and utilize public benefits and safety nets. The “why” behind that stat is immensely frustrating–the registration forms are simply unavailable in many languages. 

So what can we do to help? First and foremost, we can advocate for inclusion, research, and policy that is more considerate of the AAPI experience. We can’t make up for lost time, but we can be vocal to make sure that EVERYONE is included when we look into systemic issues and creating solutions. 

Someone who is putting in a massive amount of work to bring power to the voices of young, intersectional activists is Kevin Patel. He is the founder of One Up Action and helped create the first Youth Climate Commission in LA County. He is an environmental activist based in LA who brings to light the ways changes in the environment negatively impact quality of life. An issue we know all too well, and will be deep diving in our next blog (keep an eye out for that). 

To do our part, We Don’t Waste is proud to prioritize recovering culturally relevant foods for our food recipient partners. We do this by partnering with companies like Lee Hing Park Hill Supermarket to provide familiar foods to people attending our Mobile Food Markets and partner agencies. Offering fresh produce is another way we practice cultural responsiveness. Many times, food distribution programs and governmental organizations will prioritize providing shelf-stable, boxed, or canned foods. Simply offering a variety of produce and spices allows our nonprofit partners and Mobile Food Market participants to select the fresh foods they would have purchased! 

You can support our efforts in providing food access for all! Make a donation on our website, or volunteer with our team to support local food distribution in Denver.