Latinos Living Healthy: LULAC Committed to Ending Hunger and Obesity in the Latino Community

By Lisa Pino, Deputy Administrator of the SNAP Program at the Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture on 07/25/2011 @ 07:00 PM

Tags: USDA, Lisa Pino

It was an honor to join LULAC and represent USDA at the 2011 LULAC National Convention in Cincinnati last month for their “Latinos Living Healthy” workshop. LULAC led a great discussion as I joined other speakers from HHS, the National Park Service, and community organizations to share valuable information and resources available at the federal, state, and local level that can make a difference in the everyday health and nutrition of Latino families across the country.

As Deputy Administrator of the SNAP program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, I shared how USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs comprise the nation’s critical safety to combat huger. At a time when 40% of Latino children are either overweight or obese, and a third of Latino children are living in poverty, it is important that Latino families know that USDA programs can make the difference in providing good food on the table.

USDA’s SNAP program is now serving over 44 million people each month. USDA’s National School Lunch program serves 32 million children per year, and USDA’s WIC program serves more than 9 million pregnant and post-partum Moms, infants, and children, 42% of which are Latino. But these figures are not just numbers. They represent children, people, and families all over the country who need an extra hand to put food on the table.

USDA and the Administration have been working hard to address how USDA’s nutrition assistance programs serve all communities, including Latinos. The President issued a goal of ending childhood hunger and signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act last December, which will improve school meals. The First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative is getting everyone to work together to end childhood obesity. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, where I work, has partnered with USDA’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to launch La Mesa Completa, our Latino outreach initiative. SNAP released its new online retailer locator in English and Spanish.

USDA programs help families get healthy meals, and access to healthy food is critical as 26.9% of Latinos continue to be food insecure. Latinos experience both hunger and obesity at higher rates. This dynamic seems like a paradox, but when stretching dollars at the supermarket becomes a challenge, it may be easier to afford caloric dense foods, rather than nutrient dense foods.

But SNAP can help. SNAP can provide that financial cushion so that families have more nutritious food options. To learn more about how to apply, call the bilingual SNAP hotline at 1-800-221-5689 or visit www.fns.usda.gov/snap . To learn where kids can get free USDA meals this summer, call the bilingual Hunger Center at 1-866-3HUNGER.

Call or visit us today, because no should go hungry in America, especially our children.

Lisa Pino is Deputy Administrator of the SNAP program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, at the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She was appointed in her role by the President and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak in May, 2009.

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