The USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships co-hosted with USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and USDA FNS Western Regional Office Administrator Allen Ng, another successful community roundtable. More than 100 people attended, including State, county, and city leaders; promotoras; and representatives from faith-based organizations, community groups, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles Food Bank, area hospitals, and the Mexican Consulate. Special guests included California Endowment Director Dr. Beatriz Solis and the legendary farmworkers’ advocate Dolores Huerta. Panelists included John A. Wagner, Director of the California Department of Social Services, and Philip Browning, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.
The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss access barriers to USDA’s nutrition assistance programs and effective solutions to these problems. 71 percent of SNAP eligible but non-participating people in California are Latinos, so part of our focus was to discuss opportunities to strengthen outreach and enrollment from within the community, in partnership with state and local government.
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!
Lisa Pino is FNS Deputy Administrator for SNAP and Roxana Barillas is Deputy Director, USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.