The NO MAS HAMBRE Summit recently held in Washington DC to raise awareness of hunger in the Latino community brought together government, nonprofit, corporate and community leaders to talk about solutions to an endemic problem that often goes unnoticed — nearly one in three Latino households with children faces hunger in this country.
At the same time, Latinos are disproportionately impacted by higher rates of childhood obesity, with almost 40 percent of Latino children overweight or obese. This paradox of malnutrition and obesity is often misunderstood, so I was glad to moderate a panel at the conference on how faith-based organizations are partnering with USDA’s initiative La Mesa Completa and as part of Let’s Move Faith and Communities to address hunger and promote healthier communities.
At USDA, we are working to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food, especially in a country as bountiful as America. Yet research shows us that more than 50 million people in the U.S. face hunger, 14.9 percent of households. For U.S. Latinos, the figure is 27.9 percent, almost twice as high. Among Latino children, 32 percent face food insecurity.
Because food insecurity among Latinos is higher than the national average, it is a priority for USDA to connect eligible individuals with information about nutrition assistance programs. USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs are America’s first line of defense against hunger. These programs touch the lives of 1 in 4 Americans during the course of a year. According to the U.S. Census, in 2050, one in three American children will be of Hispanic descent. Given the present and future context, federal nutrition assistance programs and our collective efforts to promote healthier communities have never been more critical than today.
The work of USDA partners like the Alliance to End Hunger, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the Spanish Catholic Center are examples of how organizations are partnering in tandem with faith and community leaders, schools, citizen volunteers, businesses, agricultural producers and federal, state and local elected officials, with persistence and creativity, to help those less fortunate get the nutrition they need and to promote healthier communities today and into the future. With everyone’s help, hunger is a solvable problem.