Last month I spoke to food bank leaders at the Feeding America Central Region conference, which was held in Baton Rouge, La., and hosted by the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Attendees came from over 20 states to strategize about meeting the challenges of these tough economic times. Feeding America’s food banks help supply thousands of food pantries and emergency food sites across the U.S. and are among the many charitable organizations working hard to figure out ways to deal with decreased donations and a higher demand for food.
I told the group that it’s important that they continue to get the word out to food bank clients that USDA nutrition assistance is available to folks who meet the eligibility standards. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women Infants and Children program (WIC) still provide critical aid to individuals and families that may experience food insecurity. I also reminded them to encourage parents in their communities to enroll their children in school lunch and breakfast. School meals help ease the burden on families to provide three meals a day to the children in their households.
I certainly welcomed the opportunity to thank the attendees for their diligence and dedication to combating hunger in America. But ultimately the conference provided me with a great opportunity to listen to concerns so that I could take their feedback and share it with my colleagues at USDA, our partners in Congress and communities across the country.
While I was in Louisiana I also wanted to find out more about how hunger was being addressed in nearby communities. I went to New Orleans to hold a roundtable discussion with local advocates working to end hunger in the city. The meeting was graciously hosted by Natalie Jayroe, CEO and president of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana. Ms. Jayroe and other hunger advocates expressed the same concerns I heard in Baton Rouge.
The reality is none of us can solve the problem of hunger alone. New Orleans has a great group of people working hard to end hunger in the city. They’ve joined forces with Share Our Strength and many other organizations in their community. They understand that if we are going to end hunger collaboration will be the key to our success. I was glad to have an opportunity to visit our partners and talk about how we can work together going forward.