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A Church in Phoenix Opens Its Doors to Access Food

For families in Phoenix, Arizona, buying groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and putting needed nutrition assistance on the kitchen table just got a little easiter. Thanks to Reverend Eve Nuñez, a new SNAP access location opened earlier this spring to assist Phoenix’s Hispanic community apply for SNAP. Through the Help 4 Kidz organization and Love International Church, more than 700 families have already gotten help in putting food on the table.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the site in June, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food and Nutrition Services, Dr. Janey Thornton, joined Reverend Nuñez and other community leaders to celebrate the site’s newly opened doors.  The center now welcome Latinos and others with the food they need immediately and the help they need to buy it.

A young SNAP recipient eats at the Help 4 Kidz Café while his parents apply for SNAP with the help of a volunteer case manager.

The food assistance center provides pre-certification assistance for the SNAP program, as well as a meal for the children of parents who come in and connections with other federal programs.  Earlier this year, Help 4 Kidz signed a contract with the Arizona Department of Economic Security to become an official SNAP satellite.  

The grand opening is a milestone in Rev. Nuñez’ work with USDA.   Nuñez began working with the Partnerships Center through their anti-hunger initiative, “Porque Tuve Hambre y Me Diste de Comer/For I was Hungry and You Gave Me Food.”  She participated in USDA’s first ever Latino Food and Nutrition Consultation in October 2010, where she joined other faith leaders from across the country to advise USDA on how best to reach the Latino community with nutrition assistance. 

Nuñez later attended a meeting at the local St. Mary’s Food Bank where she relayed her community’s need for SNAP assistance to USDA and state officials. Following the meeting, United Way approached Nuñez with an offer to help her start the Help4Kidz SNAP satellite.  Soon after, Nuñez attended the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference Board of Directors meeting, where she learned of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Faith and Communities challenge to feed kids over the summer. Nuñez rose to the challenge. By starting the summer feeding program, a Kids Café now serves meals to kids while they wait for their parents to finish the SNAP application process at the site.   Now, USDA is assisting her in sharing her efforts with others.  A regional USDA official said, “I am hoping that she will lay the groundwork for successful participation by other pastors in Los Angeles.  Thank you for the opportunity to improve our outreach to the Latino faith community.”

Reverend Nuñez’s commitment to serving families threatened by hunger is inspired by the memory of her son, Frankie Nuñez, who passed away at age fifteen.  Nuñez views the new SNAP service at Help4Kidz as a way of fulfilling her son’s dream of feeding children. “Frankie would often ask me, ‘Why can’t we give food stamps?’” Nuñez recalls. Now, that’s exactly what she is doing.  Nuñez’ example is a story of how we can truly feed our neighbors: “I am very grateful to USDA for taking the time to help me and for being persistent in providing me with the information I needed to make my son’s dream of helping more families with food come true.”