One woman gets “Champion of Change” Award for feeding 20,000 children

Reverend Eve Nuñez is one of the extraordinary individuals being honored today by President Barack Obama for feeding more than 20,000 hungry children in Arizona last year. She is one of 10 leaders being recognized as a Cesar Chavez “Champion of Change.”  Like the activist for farm workers, they have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others throughout their community and country.

Nuñez started her non-profit organization, Help 4 Kidz, after the passing of her son Frankie, who she says told her on his death bed to never forget the hungry children. She says that when she’s felt fatigue and like she can no longer go on, it’s his memory which keeps her going.

Besides, being the founder and president of the Arizona Latino Commission, which helps clients with housing needs, Help 4 Kidz serves children from the inner city of Phoenix. Its programs include classes in literacy, dance and drama, music, sports and anti-violence.

Nuñez says the children she serves are often surrounded by drug abuse, violence, and are often alone hours at a time due to their parents working double shifts. Many times they are also suffering from hunger.

One woman gets Champion of Change Award for feeding 20,000 children tumblr m1nzhaxWsP1r1767o education NBC Latino News
Rev. Eve
Nuñez receiving the “Champion of Change” Award at The White House today. (Photo/Lisa Pino)

“Help 4 Kidz has been offering lots of food boxes for children since 1993,” she says. “Because of our economy, we had to partner with the USDA about a year ago to be able to do our feeding program.”

Nuñez was able to give out 1,600 meals a week, which was 20,000 for the summer. She says this was imperative because kids don’t eat as well in the summer, because they don’t have school lunches.

She says without the partnership with the USDA, she would not have been able to feed those children.

Lisa Pino, the deputy administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the USDA, says Nuñez is an exceptional leader who is making a difference.

“Although we connected her to USDA resources, she did the hard work of making the meal distribution actually happen, and almost more than 20,000 free meals to hungry Latinos were distributed because of it,” says Pino.

Before the economy went sour, and unemployed many families in her community, Nuñez says she used to raise $20,000 a year through special fundraising events. Now, the USDA pays 100 percent of the cost in the summer, but throughout the year she has to come up with 50 percent, which she says has been a challenge.

“We partnered with Litchfield School in Arizona, where the meals were prepared, and my husband and daughter refrigerated them. We had lunches and dinners available, and the children would come to the Help 4 Kidz location,” says Nuñez.

However, winning the award today makes her happy, because she says she feels like someone out there is listening.

“It means a lot,” says Nuñez. “I’m humbled by it. I’ve been reaching out to my community from when I was 17, and now I’m 58. I’ve made it my life goal to not forget about the poor children. This means that there are people out there that care about our community.”

At age 17, Nuñez’ dad was a farm worker who was getting $1 per hour, while everyone else was being paid $2.50. It was around that time that she met the farm worker, Cesar Chavez, in a restaurant she was working in, and she started volunteering for his civil rights cause.

“He never liked recognition for anything, and wanted very little attention for himself” she says. “I said I would pray for him, and he told me to pray for the farm workers. My dad was one of them.”

She says she remembers getting slapped for giving out flyers that said not to buy lettuce or grapes, because they were paying Latino farmers much less.

“I told Cesar, and he said, ‘Just turn the other cheek. Just ignore it and continue,’ and I did. Most people back then didn’t know about our culture, but I believed there was an injustice and I wanted to speak out on behalf of the farm workers.”

She says going hungry herself as a child has also given her the compassion to keep fighting for change.

“I think people don’t realize there are American children going to bed hungry every night and I was one of them.”

Nuñez says she fears she doesn’t know how much longer Help 4 Kidz can stay open. It is her dream to have a facility that has an open door 24-7 to feed everyone that is hungry.

“We need other organizations to help give food to the community,” she says. “Neighbors need to start caring about their neighbor’s children.”

 

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