WASHINGTON – One in three Hispanic households with children is never sure if it will have enough food for all members of the family, according to a recent report.
The problem is being driven by a relatively high unemployment rate in the Hispanic community, said a group of panelists who met Friday to talk about the report, Food Insecurity in the Latino Community. The 11 percent unemployment rate among Hispanics has forced those families to cut back on food in general, they said.
Feeding America, a nationwide hunger-relief charity that prepared the report, and the National Council of La Raza said that while there are federal programs that can help, some needy families will not seek that help because of a lack of information, or because of misinformation.
“A mother was speaking to me, who said, ‘I’m afraid to sign up for food stamps, because if I sign up for food stamps my kid will be enlisted in the Army,’” said Dario Muralles, an outreach coordinator for Capital Area Food Bank. The Washington-based food bank was also part of the panel.
These types of rumors are commonly spread in the Hispanic community, Muralles said.
Even non-profit groups such as Feeding America may be avoided by Hispanic families because they think they organizations are part of a federal government agency, said Elaine Waxman, vice president of research and partnerships for Feeding America.
Muralles agreed that cultural and language barriers can create an obstacle for Hispanics to reach out for non-profit food-assistance charities. A lot of the volunteers at those organizations do not speak Spanish, he said, which may inhibit participation.
Even if a person seeking assistance is bilingual, he or she might feel more comfortable knowing that volunteers at a charity speak Spanish, Waxman said.
“You yourself might speak English, but feel more comfortable if you know that there are people there who speak Spanish,” Waxman said. “Because that is a signal to you that they have some awareness and are involved with your community.”
Jennifer Ng’andu, an associate director for the health policy project at La Raza, said that federal food-assistance programs might be at risk as Congress looks for ways to reduce the deficit. The Hispanic civil rights organization and others on the panel Friday said they hoped lawmakers could spare food-assistance programs.
“We know that certain programs are under the gun,” Ng’andu said.
Uriel J. Garcia is a reporter for Cronkite News Service.