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Future of Healthcare

The Nonprofit Fighting to Reduce Food Insecurity Among Latinos

Food insecurity increases the risk for serious health conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease — and Latinos are disproportionately affected. According to the advocacy nonprofit UnidosUS, while 1 in 8 adults in the United States face food insecurity problems, 1 in 5 Latino adults and 1 in 4 Latino children are affected by them.

“Food is one of those basic needs and, unfortunately, there is still a lot of food insecurity in the U.S.,” said Elizabeth Carrillo, health program manager at UnidosUS.

Help with healthy eating

One of the programs that has helped address this issue for the past 40 years is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). For Latinos in particular, the program Comprando Rico y Sano — “buying healthy and flavorful foods” in English — aims to help Latinos receive nutritious food by providing SNAP enrollment assistance, while also educating on how to follow a healthy diet on a budget.

“It’s about showing families how they can eat healthier with the benefits they receive on a monthly basis,” Carrillo said.

UnidosUS launched Comprando Rico y Sano six years ago, and the program has been implemented in 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, touching both rural and urban communities. In 2017, 25,636 Latinos were enrolled into SNAP through the program and 73,602 received face-to-face nutrition education.


What sets Comprando Rico y Sano apart is that UnidosUS first developed its curriculum in Spanish and then translated it to English, which Carrillo said has been critical in the program’s efficacy.

“That means it’s adapted in a culturally sensitive way, so it’s not just translated, but there’s a transcreation aspect to make sure its culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate,” she said.

Close to home

Equally important is the fact that community health workers, or promotores de salud, serve as the liaison between community members and the resources available to them. This allows those workers to help fill gaps that local and national agencies may not meet.

“They’re from the community themselves and they’re able to relate to their fellow community members in ways that other healthcare providers sometimes cannot,” Carrillo said.

Some of these workers are integrated at community health centers. Regardless of location, they’re at the frontlines of the effort to help educate their communities about the importance of taking a holistic approach to health. For example, being in good health also requires access to quality healthcare and financial management — things that people who are food insecure are less likely to have.

“Health doesn’t just happen in the doctor’s office; it’s also shaped by where we live, work, play, and learn,” Carrillo said.

To learn more about Comprando Rico y Sano, visit www.Unidos.US/CRS.

Melinda Carter, [email protected]

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