With one out of every four Latino families struggling to put food on the table, congregations and community-based organizations need all the help they can get in meeting this challenge. That is why USDA hosted Hispanic pastors in cities across the country for webinar watch events on the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).
The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) partnered with USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Food and Nutrition Service to hold viewings in California, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Washington, DC. The webinars are one of many ways USDA is engaging faith-based, Hispanic-serving organizations to participate in USDA’s nutrition assistance programs. Feeding kids through the Summer Food Service Program is particularly important: 21 million children receive free or reduced school lunches during the year, but only 3.4 million kids are fed meals over the summer through USDA summer feeding programs.
At USDA Headquarters in Washington, local pastors from the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia gathered together to watch the Summer Food Service Program webinar, and program administrators joined the event to answer questions afterward. The audience was comprised of NHCLC members and colleagues, and each participant went home with information and contacts for starting the Summer Food Service Program at their local churches. Several pastors committed to participating in the program, which helps reach the First Lady’s goal to launch new summer feeding sites as part of the Let’s Move! Faith and Communities initiative. As a Let’s Move! partner, NHCLC has committed to hosting 120 new summer feeding sites this summer.
In Arizona, Reverend Eve Nunez and Help4Kidz hosted a viewing for folks in Phoenix looking to help local children get meals for the summer when school lets out. Pastor Jose Elias hosted Floridians outside of Orlando at the Family Christian Center. In Los Angeles, CA, Reverend Jaime Tolle brought pastors and community leaders to La Iglesia en El Camino (The Church on the Way). And in Texas, the San Antonio Food Bank hosted NHCLC Board Secretary, Pastor Eliezer Bonilla, and almost 50 guests to watch the webinar and ask questions afterward. At each webinar viewing, state agency representatives, USDA regional administrators, and/or SFSP program sponsors answered questions, brought information specific to each locale, and helped folks in the room sign up to participate in the SFSP program.
More than 160 participants registered for the webinar, and live feeds came in to USDA Headquarters from all over the country during the Watch Party: “People here are interested and engaged. We had fun!” In Washington, pastors mingled afterward to exchange ideas and brainstorm ways to implement the program. One pastor enthusiastically said, “This is a great opportunity. Imagine how many more kids we can help feed, now that we know about SFSP and other programs mentioned.”