Free meals to get people to take part in 2020 Census

LOS ANGELES -- A census campaign is using billboards as visual empowerment to encourage residents to fill out the census.

The new billboards in East Los Angeles, CA are sharing a message of inclusivity through visual empowerment with unique artwork.

"Communities of color are the most undercounted in the census. So we want it to be part of the campaign to empower, encourage, and provide factual information," said Marvella Muro, a director at Self Help Graphics & Art.

The project, an extension of the 'We Count LA' Census campaign, is in partnership with Self Help Graphics & Art, a community arts organization that features local artists from diverse backgrounds and their work. As part of another effort to get more people to fill out the 2020 Census, various restaurants in and around the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles are handing out free meal vouchers.

"Usually, we would have an event at the center. We'd go out to a local communities place and we host food," said Denise Villamil, a program director with Alma Family Services. "We thought we could do vouchers and that way they can, while complying with covid-19 safer at home recommendations, they could do that at their own time."

53% of Boyle Heights residents had sent in responses for the census by the end of August, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Los Angeles County had a 62% completion rate and California overall had a 67% completion rate.

"The numbers are super low, meaning that Boyle Heights is not going to get that much money or the money that we deserve to the community because we're not being counted," said Serrano.
"I mean, historically, our community's Spanish speaking immigrant communities are very uncomfortable in giving personal information," said Villamil.

There are 200 vouchers available, and all people need to do to receive one is show proof of completion at any of the participating restaurants or the restaurant can help people fill it out on site.

"It's a closed round when you do the census, support the small business and the fact that Alma Services, is just one of the first nonprofits that is willing to work with the businesses like that. It's just beautiful," said Serrano.