Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the USDA Blog.
As part of the national Summer Food Service Program Kickoff (SFSP) Week June 11-15, I was in Denver, Colorado, and visited two great Colorado SFSP sites.
One of those sites was in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, just west of downtown Denver. Healing Waters Family Center has a 90 percent Hispanic congregation. Last summer, after participating in a webinar co-sponsored by USDA and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Healing Waters became an SFSP sponsor for the first time and had a very positive experience.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to share a conference call with Pastor Joseito Velasquez, the pastor at Healing Waters. On that call, we spoke to reporters about the program.
Something Pastor Velasquez said on the call really showed why the summer food service program is so critical. He said, “For the two months that our site was open last year, parents brought their children in for plates of food. Not only did they ask for food, but also for spiritual and community help they needed. We were able to help them here and also refer them to other agencies in the county. So we became a liaison for the community, and all this was possible thanks to the Summer Food Program, which has been a blessing.
I was looking forward to traveling to Denver and meeting Pastor Velasquez in person. When I arrived at Healing Waters, about 35 children were taking part in a lesson about important qualities young people should have, such as kindness and faith.
While there, I also had the pleasure of meeting a few other Denver-area leaders. Andrés Chao, the Consul General of Mexico in Denver, and Laszlo Kalloi, the Consul for Community and Economic Affairs, joined us so they could see the summer program first hand. Later, we shared a list of all Colorado sites with them so they could be sure to share the information with all of the folks they work with at the consulate in Denver.
I also met Dr. Danny Carroll from the Denver Seminary, a board member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. NHCLC is a supporter of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, and the organization led the way in committing to support access to healthy food during the summer by engaging pastors in Let’s Move Faith and Communities. Mr. Carroll stayed to visit the children and joined them for lunch.
We congratulate NHCLC and organizations like Healing Waters who work very hard to provide much-needed services in their community. A representative from the Jeffco Mental Health Center, which sometimes provides courses for parents at the church, also attended the event.
By sponsoring the Summer Food Service Program, Healing Waters has found a way to fill a need in their programs for children. Children, parents and community organizations feel better after participating in the SFSP.
Kevin Concannon is the USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.