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Posts tagged: Faith-Based

SNAP Crucial to Ending Hunger in America!

By Lisa Pino, Deputy Administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

As Deputy Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), I’ve talked to many communities around the country about what more USDA can do to help people fight hunger and have greater access to healthy food. Although it’s been a year since I joined FNS, I remain humbled by the privilege of serving in a role where all of my time is spent helping others through the vehicle of SNAP. SNAP is truly a critical safety net to those in need, and it is by far our nation’s largest anti-hunger program as more than 40 million people a month receive SNAP assistance. Nevertheless, there is always more work to do as we are still not reaching millions of eligible people who could be served.

For this reason, our Southeast Regional Office (SERO) and I conducted a community round table in Miami, Florida to discuss with local leaders how to get more eligible people to participate on SNAP. Although SNAP is at an historic high as the economy continues to recover, too many SNAP eligible people are not on the program despite the benefit. The purpose of the community round table is to learn what barriers prevent their participation, and to identify ideas on how to open up access and improve participation to FNS programs especially among seniors, the working poor, and eligible Hispanics and immigrants. With my partners at the USDA Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, FNS regions like SERO have been doing tremendous work in coordinating community round tables in NJ, AZ, FL, and later this summer in CA and IL.

In Miami, our community round table was held at the Human Services Coalition where over 50 people, ranging from county partners, consulates, community organizations, and faith based organizations joined us. Earlier that morning I had also addressed a Florida ACCESS Community Partner Summit in Boca Raton attended by over 170 organizations. Community partners are critical in our mission to reach those in need and now act as that catalyst to help bridge the non-participating SNAP gap.

The next morning a big surprise occurred when I appeared on national television to talk about SNAP. Despierta America on Univision is the Spanish-language equivalent of Good Morning America, and my four minute interview resulted in almost one thousand calls to our bilingual SNAP call center alone. Later that morning I had the most fun visiting the Little Havana Activity and Nutrition Center, which provides seniors with every kind of help that you can imagine, from SNAP assistance to nutrition counseling to CACFP. As incredible as the Little Havana Center is though, everyone there works hard to have fun, which is so important as too many seniors live in isolation. For this reason, the Center includes daily performances from a retired professional pianist, popular exercise classes, an entire room dedicate to domino playing, and morning salsa. No, not as in the chips and dip kind, but live salsa music. So of course I had to join them on the dance floor, which they do every day as early as 9:00 AM!

Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino is interviewed on Univision’s national morning show, Despierta America.  (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).
Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino is interviewed on Univision’s national morning show, Despierta America.
(USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).

Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino talks with senior citizens as they play Cuban dominos at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami.   (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).
Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino talks with senior citizens as they play Cuban dominos at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami. (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).

Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino takes a break to dance with a senior citizen at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami.   (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).
Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino takes a break to dance with a senior citizen at the Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Center in Miami.   (USDA photo by Debbie Haston-Hilger).

FNS Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino (center),  USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Acting Deputy Director Julie Curti (left), and SERO Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (right), meet with local government leaders, hunger advocates, faith-based groups and community partners, June 3, during a roundtable in Miami.
FNS Deputy Administrator for SNAP Lisa Pino (center),  USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Acting Deputy Director Julie Curti (left), and SERO Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (right), meet with local government leaders, hunger advocates, faith-based groups and community partners, June 3, during a roundtable in Miami.

USDA Community Roundtables on Nutrition Assistance Launched in South Texas

On March 19, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Deputy Administrator Lisa Pino traveled to Texas to meet with local leaders and members of the Rio Grande Valley community to talk about how to solve hunger issues in the area. FNS Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig and USDA Director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Max Finberg also took part in the discussions.

The Rio Grande Valley meetings were the first in a series of “Community Roundtables” USDA will host in cities across the country. The roundtables are a key component of ending childhood hunger by 2015.

The first roundtable focused on the community at large.  A second roundtable was held later that day with faith-based communities at the Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle-National Shrine.

Both roundtables were a success.  FNS was able to solicit helpful feedback regarding how it can better work with the Rio Grande community to ensure eligible people participate in nutritional assistance programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP currently provides food assistance to 39 million low-income people across the country and is the nation’s largest anti-hunger program.

The 2000 census showed that 35 percent of the Rio Grande Valley population lived below the federal poverty level compared to 12 percent nationally.

South West Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig (holding the podium) is addressing 50 community leaders, anti-hunger advocates, faith-based groups, and food bank to discuss ways to ending childhood hunger by finding ways to increase participation in our programs.
South West Regional Administrator Bill Ludwig (holding the podium) is addressing 50 community leaders, anti-hunger advocates, faith-based groups, and food bank to discuss ways to ending childhood hunger by finding ways to increase participation in our programs