The USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently co-hosted a successful community roundtable in Los Angeles to discuss access barriers to USDA’s nutrition assistance programs and effective solutions to these problems. Since 71% of Latinos in California are eligible for food stamps (renamed SNAP) but are underserved by the program, part of our focus was to discuss opportunities to strengthen outreach and enrollment from within the community, in partnership with state and local government. This meeting was co-hosted with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and USDA FNS Western Regional Office Administrator Allen Ng.
More than 100 leaders attended from different levels of government as well as a variety of leaders from different sectors in the community. Special guests included California Endowment Director Dr. Beatriz Solis and the legendary farmworkers’ advocate Dolores Huerta.
We also visited the children of the Boys and Girls Club of East Los Angeles, where over 250 children were receiving nutrition education funded by SNAP and meals from USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Next, we stopped at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which is visiting people door-to-door to sign them up for SNAP. Lastly, we visited the St. Francis Medical Center’s Health Benefits Resource Center, the one-stop shop known as “El Centro.” El Centro provides on-site SNAP application assistance for families to help them navigate the process, including preparing necessary documentation.
Los Angeles provided us an opportunity to learn directly from organizations how USDA can address high levels of food insecurity. We heard that:
• families are often fearful or too proud to ask for help in a time of need;
• that nutrition assistance benefits can help their children access the nutrition they need to be productive at work and in school; and
• how important it is to partner in this work with faith-based and neighborhood organizations.
This feedback will help us reach more eligible families by reshaping our message and partnering with others right in their communities, where they study, work, play and pray!
Roxana Barillas is Deputy Director, USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Lisa Pino, FNS Deputy Administrator for SNAP, contributed to this post.