2020 40 Under 40 Honoree: José A. Diaz
“There is not a food scarcity issue, there is a food access issue."
To many Pittsburghers, the YMCA is a gym and a place to swim. But José Diaz, the Y’s senior director of community outreach and impact, says the organization is really whatever the community needs it to be. And in the worst days of the pandemic, what the community needed was food. So Diaz partnered with multiple organizations, including 412 Food Rescue, Paragon Foods, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and local restaurants, to offer a grab-and-go style pantry where those in need received prepackaged bags of goods. He also repurposed the Y’s fleet of “Y on the Fly” vehicles, typically reserved for pop-up summer camps, to deliver produce boxes and dinner kits to the region’s most vulnerable families.
“One thing COVID taught me is there is not a food scarcity issue, there’s a food access issue,” Diaz says.
Often, those who cannot access food are part of the region’s Black and brown communities, and are the very people who need it the most. It’s a binary system that Diaz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has witnessed repeatedly.
“You’re either this, you’re that or you’re the other,” Diaz says. “It’s time we celebrate diversity in Pittsburgh.”