When a newspaper reporter asked me recently, “What can I tell our readers about the USDA programs,” I told her: “Most of what USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service does is through others.”
As I travel throughout the country, I see how different organizations come together to carry out our mission of putting food on the table for those in need. In concert with FNS’ 15 nutrition assistance programs, hundreds of organizations are working hard every day to create the safety net against hunger that protects Americans. Without fanfare and with little public notice, coalitions of non-profits, religious organizations and groups of volunteers are often the first line of defense against hunger.
One shining example of this excellent teamwork is in New Orleans where I recently met with Catholic Charities Archdiocese CEO Gordon Wadge and other representatives. They work hand in hand, using a combination of FNS programs, donations and community-building outreach techniques that aid people in many different ways across the city. For example, at Café Hope the food is prepared and served by disadvantaged, at-risk young people who might otherwise be on the street.
I also talked with Tim Robertson the director of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Food for Families. Food for Families warehouses, pre-packs, and transports supplemental food boxes to more than 120 donation sites throughout Louisiana and where the program serves 60,000 people.
I even visited a garden where former prison inmates, who are now members of AmeriCorps, work with the Sisters of the Holy Family. The Cornerstone Builders, as administered by Catholic Charities’ Office of Justice and Peace, eases formerly incarcerated individuals back into society by giving former inmates education, support and the opportunity to do community service.
These examples don’t even scratch the surface of all that Catholic Charities does to enrich the lives of so many in New Orleans. Through their local service and the service of organizations like them across the United States, we strengthen the food safety net and our commitment to helping those in need.