On July 24, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined local, state, and national partners at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Annual Conference to discuss efforts to combat hunger and improve the nutritional health of Hispanics, especially children.
“USDA is committed to ensuring that all Latino families in the United States have access to nutritious foods, which will help them stay healthy, active and able to win their future,” said Vilsack. “Our valued partners at La Raza and its affiliates are uniquely positioned to create and implement sustainable solutions to ending hunger and help us reach the most vulnerable members of our communities. We need to work together in setting a table for everyone to have access to healthy, affordable food.”
Vilsack outlined a comprehensive approach to combating hunger and obesity in the Latino community. Recent studies show 17.4 million American households were at risk for hunger in 2009, including one in four Latino families. Among them, Hispanic households with children were more likely than average to face very low food security among children. At the same time, obesity remains the fastest growing public health issue in the United States. Roughly one-third of American children are overweight or obese, putting that same proportion of children at risk for diabetes, with the rate in Latino communities reaching nearly one-half.
USDA remains committed to addressing the dual challenges of childhood hunger and obesity – both fueled by a lack of proper nutrition. USDA provides nutrition assistance to 1 in 4 Americans, but there are still many people who are eligible for assistance programs and are not enrolled. SNAP, the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program, provides nutrition education and helps put healthy food on the table for more than 44 million people each month, half of whom are children. However, only 56 percent of eligible Hispanics access these critical benefits.
“At a time when 40 percent of Latino children are either overweight or obese, and a third of Latino families with children are threatened by hunger, it is important that Latino families know that USDA programs can make the difference in providing good food on the table,” said Lisa Pino, USDA’s Deputy Director of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. “That’s why it’s imperative to work with partners like NCLR to reach more people in need and help them access critical nutrition benefits.”
Improving child nutrition is also the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed into law by President Obama on December 13, 2010. The legislation authorizes USDA’s child nutrition programs, including the Summer Food Service Program, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to school meals and increase access to these critical programs. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is also the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the child nutrition programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.