La Mesa Completa Provides Food Assistance for Hispanics

FoodThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced an initiative to reduce hunger and food insecurity in the Hispanic community. Please help us share this information, including Spanish and English resources with Hispanics (and those who work with Hispanics), who may be hungry and in need of food assistance. 

Hispanic families add to the vibrant diversity of US society and contribute significantly to our cultural melting pot. In 2008, 15 percent of the U.S. population was Hispanic and 24 percent of U.S. population was under age 18. Latino families are much more likely to live in poverty and experience food insecurity than white non-Hispanic households.

USDA nutrition assistance programs offer a variety of ways for low-income Hispanic families to meet basic needs:

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, helps low-income households supplement their food purchases so they can purchase more and healthier food. The Nation’s largest nutrition assistance program, delivers benefits to nearly 38 million people each month. About 14.8 percent of participants were Hispanic in 2008. Click here for the English pre-screening tool, or click here for the Spanish pre-screening tool.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and referrals to health and other social services for pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five, who meet income guidelines and are at nutritional risk. In most States, WIC participants received vouchers or checks to purchase specific food each month that are designed to supplement their diets with specific nutrients that benefit WIC’s target population. In FY 2008, USDA spent nearly $6.2 billion to serve just over 8.7 million WIC participants. Hispanics represent the largest racial/ethnic group in the WIC Program. In 2008 about 41.2 percent of those enrolled in WIC were of Hispanic origin. That year, about 900,000 Hispanic infants born in the United States participated in WIC. Click here for the WIC pre-screening tool, available in both English and Spanish.
  • The Child Nutrition Programs provide cash reimbursement and commodity support for meals served to children in schools, child care facilities, and summer settings. Programs include the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Milk Program. The general purpose of these programs is to help ensure the health and well being of all the Nation’s children. In FY 2008, more than $9.3 billion in cash and commodities were provided. These resources resulted in meals for approximately 31 million children on an average day during the school year and more than 2.2 million during the summer months.

Although many low-income Latinos participate in USDA’s nutrition assistance programs, a large number do not. In 2006, about 56 percent of people in SNAP eligible households with a Hispanic head participated in the program. People in Hispanic-headed households represent a more than one-quarter of eligible people who do not participate. The bottom line is that while about 15 percent of households in the United States were food insecure at some time during 2008, the rate of food insecurity among Hispanic families was over 25 percent.

USDA is making a concerted effort to address barriers to program participation among eligible Hispanics, including immigrants. Some of these efforts include:
  • A web-based pre-screening tool in English and Spanish provides users with estimates of their eligibility and benefit amounts. Click here to access this tool.
  • La Mesa Completa is USDA’s initiative to reduce hunger in the Latino community by improving access and increasing participation of eligible Latinos in our federal nutrition assistance programs. Written in Spanish, the web-based toolkit navigates like a website with helpful links, best practices, stories, and even videos of personal testimonies to help connect your community with USDA’s resources. Click here to download this resource.
  • The following webcast, also in Spanish, introduces the new, interactive La Mesa Completa Toolkit. This e-tool, specifically designed for the Latino Community, describes federal nutrition assistance programs in order to ensure that Latinos to get food assistance when they need it. The toolkit includes helpful links, best practices, stories, and even videos of personal testimony of how federal programs are helping families get the nutrition they need.

  • Educational posters and flyers in English and Spanish which may be ordered for use in local outreach campaigns, along with a photo library, including pictures of Hispanic individuals and families, that can be used in promotional and informational materials. Click here to access these resources.

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