The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is hard at work to better serve the American public by fighting hunger and encouraging healthy eating. Under President Obama’s leadership, we have undertaken a renewed commitment to ensure that all Americans have access to good, nutritious meals – while at the same time encouraging Congress to support a sensible and reliable nutrition assistance program and an immigration reform package that will strengthen food security.
Freedom from hunger is critical for Americans to lead healthy, active lives, and it is also essential to maintaining a strong, successful American workforce. Unfortunately, food insecurity is still a fact of life for too many. Over 17 million American households faced food insecurity sometime during 2012, and food insecurity remains a significant problem for the Latino community. At 23.3 percent, food insecurity in Latino households is significantly higher than the national average of 14.5 percent. Latino children, in particular, suffer from a higher rate of food-related issues, with almost 40 percent of Hispanic children considered obese or overweight.
USDA programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), are designed to help families provide the nutritious food that keeps them healthy and strong. These programs offer vital assistance that helps families put healthy food on the table.
Nearly half of all recipients are children whose families simply don’t make enough to make ends meet. USDA is working hard to make sure that all families, including those in the Latino community, have access to nutritious foods to help them stay healthy and active as they follow their dreams.
Right now in Washington, Congress is debating a new Farm Bill that will have a critical impact on the nutrition programs. The Farm Bill sets agricultural policy for our nation – but it also provides many other programs designed to create jobs, help rural communities, grow small business, and make sure that families get the nutrition they need. So, the Farm Bill is actually a Food, Farm, and Jobs bill that benefits every American. This is a critical piece of legislation that for decades has included nutrition assistance programs for Americans most in need.
The Obama Administration has advocated for a new Farm Bill that provides adequate nutrition assistance programs. In particular, we have been clear that this is not the time for cuts to the SNAP program, as proposed by some in Congress, that would disqualify millions. Simply put, it’s time for Congress to get its job done and pass a comprehensive new Farm Bill as soon as possible.
In addition to a new Farm Bill, USDA has emphasized the importance of commonsense immigration reform to our nation’s food security. The historic, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate would provide an opportunity for millions of farm workers to earn U.S. citizenship. It would offer the certainty that farmers, ranchers and farm workers need to keep providing the abundant food supply we enjoy in the United States, ultimately strengthening our economy and our nation.
Since 2009, USDA has also worked with Americans from all walks of life to encourage physical activity and healthy nutrition. We have partnered with the Latino community, providing a number of nutritional resources for Spanish-speaking audiences. Parents and caregivers can use educational materials from MiPlato, available at www.choosemyplate.gov, which serves as a simple reminder for Americans to make healthier food choices. You can also find healthy, low-cost versions of your favorite recipes on USDA’s Recipe Finder, available in English and Spanish.
Further, by helping to pass and implement the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, USDA has played an important role in making sure that school breakfast, lunch, and snacks served to millions of children each day are healthier than ever before. To complement this effort, we are striving to increase the availability of summer feeding programs for children who depend on school breakfast and lunch during the school year. In California, for example, preliminary data indicate that our efforts have led to an increase in participation by nearly ten percent this summer alone.
At USDA, we are committed to the health and well-being of all Americans, and we have made a concerted effort to offer tools that help families in the Latino community ensure healthy nutrition for their families. We also will continue to advocate for a sensible nutrition assistance program here in Washington, because too much is at stake for millions of families if Congress can’t get its work done.