In early October, the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Agriculture was honored to host a dozen Latino faith leaders to our “Tuve Hambre y Me Diste de Comer” (“For I was Hungry and You Fed Me”) consultation on improving hunger-related engagement in the Latino community. USDA studies show that 1 out of 4 Hispanic households in the US are food insecure and that this number is only growing. The situation is well-known among these leaders whose congregations and organizations are on the front lines of serving those threatened by hunger.
Participants in this convening shared their successes and challenges feeding the hungry and promoting SNAP and other nutrition programs in their respective communities. Angel Gutierrez of Catholic Charities shared how in Chicago they are able to provide food, access to social services, job training and educational programs through their WIC Food and Nutrition centers and the Summer Food Service Program. In fact, they were able to increase the meals served to children during the summer months to 275,000 by partnering with 105 community sites last year. In addition, Ricardo Moreno of Bread for the World offered insightful remarks on the need for government to “communicate and produce resources at the level where people are.” Echoing this approach was Duke Storen, Food and Nutrition Service’s Director of Strategic Partnerships. Storen emphasized that the consultation served as a time of listening for USDA officials. The group also heard from Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and USDA Undersecretary Ed Avalos.
The morning session provided guests with information about USDA food assistance programs. Stimulating conversation continued into lunch during USDA’s 2010 Hispanic Heritage Food Fiesta. The consultation wrapped up with hopeful reflections from invited leaders, who expressed their intention to continue empowering Latino families in their struggle against hunger. They also made commitments to expand outreach for USDA’s nutrition assistance programs.
It’s easy to think that ending hunger is an insurmountable task and that no one individual can have an impact on this issue. However, this convening left participants optimistic that through partnerships with faith-based organizations, we can work together to make sure every family has access to filling and nutritious food.
Max Finberg is Director of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.