Our new profile series examines the difficulties Hispanic children and families face in accessing affordable, nutritious food.

The State of Latino Nutrition

Fighting for lifelong health in the Latino community

By Stephanie Presch, Content Editor/Writer

Lack of affordable, nutritious food is a serious problem in the Latino community. Not only is it tightly linked to poverty, it is also tied to different health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, which disproportionately affect Latinos in the United States.

Latino health and nutrition | NCLR

Our new profile series, “The State of Latino Nutrition,” examines the difficulties Hispanic children and families face in accessing affordable, nutritious food. These profiles focus on California, Texas, and Florida, as well as the states’ participation in key federal nutrition programs. The studies show the challenges specific to each state, how nutrition programs help bridge the gaps in affected communities, and call for solutions from policymakers.

Our Affiliates are taking action

NCLR Affiliates work directly with their local communities to implement solutions that increase access to healthy, affordable food. For example, California’s AltaMed recently launched a healthy snack guide in partnership with Champions for Change, a program with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, to help Latino families shop smarter for their families, and curb obesity in the community.

It is vital to work locally with the people most impacted by chronic health conditions. Our Affiliates can provide important information with a personal touch to the most vulnerable in a community. One Chicago Affiliate, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, with assistance from our Comprando rico y sano program, hosts small educational sessions—also known as charlas—in park districts, public libraries, and other community gathering places. The promotoras (community health workers) who lead these chats, live in the community, so they have a strong connection with the residents. Their words and actions can help community members lead healthier lives.

Other NCLR Affiliates such as Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, Inc. in Texas and Hispanic Health Initiatives in Florida offer weight-loss classes and interactive health education videos on their websites. Eastmont Community Center in Los Angeles holds dance and taekwondo classes, because physical activity is a vital component in ensuring lasting health.

Latino childhood health

Making healthy food available for our children

The need to combat food insecurity begins early, which is why NCLR Affiliate Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, Inc. in California helps eligible mothers sign up for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to receive nutritious food for themselves and their young children. Three-quarters of WIC recipients in California are Latino.

Keeping federal nutrition programs strong, including school breakfast and lunch programs, helps bring nutritious food to children who need it. This is particularly important for Latino children, who nationally are more likely to participate in the free breakfast program than White children. Nationwide, about seven million Latino children receive free or reduced-price school lunches out of 31 million children who participate in the program.

Federal food programs put nutritious food on the table

In addition to the school meals programs, other federal programs that reach children and families at home and in the larger community are critical. Our “State of Latino Nutrition” series also highlights the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the largest program in the country designed to help low-income children and families access healthy food. In California alone, more than four million people benefit from CalFresh, California’s SNAP program. However, many people who qualify are not enrolled. Low Latino participation rates in SNAP remains a significant problem across the nation, as many eligible Latinos do not participate in the program.

Comprando rico y sano works to address this enrollment shortfall. The program works across 30 counties to help all those who are eligible enroll in their state’s SNAP program.

Video: Find out more about Comprando Rico y Sano

Given the critical role federal nutrition programs serve in the lives of America’s children and families, including Latinos, NCLR advocates at the federal level for robust investments to keep programs strong, and eliminate barriers to participation.

A call for action

We call on community, state, and national leaders to invest in targeted strategies and policies that increase access to affordable, nutritious food, and promote lifelong health. As the largest and one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States, the Latino community will have an increasing role in shaping the health and socioeconomic well-being of the nation.