Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • Todos en la Mesa: Making Room for Everyone at the Table

    USDA Todos en la mesa

    Roxana Ulloa Barillas, Deputy Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Agriculture informs faith leaders of nutritious food options April 25, 2012.

    During a recent visit to Southern California, I met with key partners in USDA’s efforts to address hunger and make nutritious food affordable and available, particularly in low-income communities.

    More than one out of four Latino families in the United States is food insecure, and many do not know that CalFresh, the name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in California, can help families put healthy food on the table. Latinos are now the fastest growing demographic group in the United States, and they face higher levels of both hunger and obesity.  Since almost half of Los Angeles County’s population is Latino, I was excited to share our new La Mesa Completa Community Leaders Tool Kit with faith leaders from the Catholic and Evangelical communities, as well as with nutrition advocates from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

    I participated in the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit, where I met Margarita Fernandez, a member of Patton Alianza Coalition. She reminded me that in spite of the multiple challenges facing Latinos in the United States, there also are great treasures in the community. As a volunteer member of a coalition that focuses on public safety concerns, she shared how nutrition needs in the community was also high on her list of priorities. So, she got her hands dirty – literally! – and decided to start a community garden.  She even paid out of pocket to take classes at UC Davis Extension to become a Master Gardener. I was inspired by her commitment to bringing solutions to her community.

  • President Obama Welcomes Q to Washington

    Last week, evangelical leaders from churches, the non-profit sector, business, fashion and other sectors gathered in Washington for Q. They were welcomed to Washington by the President via a video message. In his remarks, the President thanked the leaders for their service to their communities, and talked about the role of government in supporting and supplementing their efforts.

    You can watch the video and read the President’s remarks below.

  • Improving Health Outcomes through Community Partnership

    HHS Improving Health Outcomes

    Dora Barilla, Director of Community Health Development, Loma Linda University Medical Center, shares their health system’s vision of community health at February's Improving Health Outcomes convening at HHS. March 16, 2012.


    At a mid-February convening at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Improving Health Outcomes through Faith-Based and Community Partnerships: Best Practices from Health Systems in the Field, senior leaders from 29 different hospital systems from across the country gathered to share best practices, experiences and emerging models for engaging communities as partners in health.

     This two-day event, following a first convening held September 20, was hosted by the HHS and White House Offices for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, with the support and cooperation of participating health systems. It was designed to tap the collective wisdom of innovators among health leaders addressing health disparities through community partnerships. 

    Participants shared an extraordinary exchange of ideas and their understanding of the complexities involved in delivering excellent care while serving to meet the community needs that affect better health outcomes.  The agenda considered how to set the stage for strategic community assessment and asset mapping, and how those assessments and assets inform the investment of community benefit dollars.  Participants also discussed how strong metrics for tracking data and evaluation can further support the case for community partnerships improving health outcomes.

    HHS Improving Health Outcomes

    Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Senior VP for Community Health Education and Wellness and Chief Wellness Officer, Henry Ford Health System, presents their health system’s unique practices working with community partners to increase better health outcomes. March 16, 2012.


    Here are just a few of the exciting things participants shared during the meeting:

    The agenda and presentation materials can be found on the Methodist Healthcare Center for Excellence in Faith and Health’s website

    New collaborations and conversations are already forming to advance the work of partnering with communities with a focus on health assets to reduce health disparities.  The value in sharing and adapting best practices was illustrated when folks from IU Health related how they were able to move forward with plans for a $5 million new health center after presenting data based on new asset mapping techniques gleaned from an earlier conversation.  The collaborative is “shifting the paradigm from return on investment to return on life,” according toDora Barilla, Director of the Loma Linda Community Health Development.

    Send any comments or ideas to Partnerships @ and sign up for our newsletter at

    Alexia Kelley is Director and Heidi Christensen is Associate Director for Community Engagement at the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

  • Muslim and Jewish Students Unite to Help Survivors

    Muslim and Jewish Students from NYU build

    Bridges’ students install siding on one of the new homes being built for tornado survivors Photo by: Tim Burkitt-FEMA March 1, 2012. (by Tim Burkitt-FEMA)

    Muslim and Jewish Students from NYU w/ David Myers

    Pratt City, AL: Rev. David L. Myers (blue jacket), director of the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, visits with Bridges- Ariel Ennis, executive board member; Chelsea Garbell, president; and Fatima Kutty, executive board member; at the Habitat for Humanity building site. Photo by: Tim Burkitt-FEMA March 1, 2012. (by FEMA photo-Tim Burkitt)

     The recent deadly tornadoes that went through several Midwestern states in February and March serve as a reminder of the official beginning of tornado season. 

    The recent tornadoes also are a harsh reminder of April 2011, when at least 173 tornadoes, thunderstorms, and severe winds ripped through the south, killing more than 300 and causing widespread destruction throughout several states.    

     Recently 16 students – nine Jewish and seven Muslim -- from New York University assembled in Birmingham to lend their hands to recovery efforts.

    The twisters leveled neighborhoods and left thousands homeless, with more than a million people without power. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it was the worst tornado outbreak since 1974.

     President Obama called the loss of life "heartbreaking," and promised survivors the full support of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency provided federal disaster aid to Alabama and several other affected states.

     The students from Bridges: Muslim Jewish Interfaith Dialogue at NYU,, partnered with the New York-based Jewish Disaster Response Corps (JDRC) to participate in rebuilding efforts working with Habitat for Humanity. Accompanying the students were Imam Khalid Latif and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna.

     The trip to Birmingham was Bridges’ service initiative as part of President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

    Importance of Voluntary and Faith-based Organizations

     Following any disaster, survivors depend on voluntary and faith-based organizations to assist in recovery efforts. “Rebuilding becomes the responsibility of the local community, which does not always have the financial needs to address concerns,” said Elie Lowenfeld, JDRC founder and director who also accompanied the students.

     Chelsea Garbell, president of Bridges and a junior at NYU, said the main purpose of the trip was to facilitate religious dialogue. "When we engage in religious dialogue and service work, we strengthen relationships among ourselves, and through those relationships we are able to provide invaluable assistance to the communities we encounter."  She added that while in some areas there is animosity between Muslims and Jews, “if we can learn from one another, and develop an understanding of our similarities and differences, we can stand together as human beings in an effort to better the world around us.”

     Fatima Kutty, a Bridges executive board member who hopes to go to medical school after graduation, said she enjoys working in an interfaith environment, and through “amazing conversations,” she has learned a lot about the Jewish religion and its people.  She added, “Once relationships are established people are less likely to discriminate.”

     Lowenfeld said that the trip was a unique opportunity for members of NYU’s Muslim and Jewish communities to develop meaningful relationships with each other, as well as provide service and hope to disaster survivors.

     According to Rev. David L. Myers, director of the DHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, the students’ work in assisting recovery efforts exemplify the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships’ goals of fostering interreligious dialogue and cooperation, while also advancing the whole community approach to emergency management.

     For additional information, go to

     Terry Monrad is Executive Officer at the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

  • Let's Move!: Faith and Community Groups Lead the Way!

    Faith and community groups are leading the way! That was the theme of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech celebrating the second anniversary of Let’s Move! last weekend. The First Lady visited Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood, Florida as part of her three-day anniversary tour celebrating the nationwide initiative she launched to end childhood obesity in a generation. At the event, the First Lady spoke to over 3,000 Let’s Move Faith and Communities supporters of diverse backgrounds, including congregants, community members, and leaders from 120 congregations and organizations in the Central Florida area, representing 15 different faiths and denominations. The First Lady was graciously welcomed by Dr. Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, and Mrs. Becky Hunter.

    The First Lady thanked everyone for the critical work faith-based and neighborhood organizations do to support the health of children in their communities. And to highlight the great work these groups are engaged in across the country, the First Lady announced the Communities on the Move video challenge, telling the crowd, “whatever you do, I want to know about it.” She invited national and local faith-based and community groups from all corners of the country to create inspiring videos about their efforts to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. The video challenge recognizes community efforts that promote healthy lifestyles for kids in three areas: by encouraging nutritious eating through USDA’s MyPlate icon, increasing physical activity, and ensuring access to healthy, affordable foods. Winners will be invited to Washington, D.C. for a Let’s Move! event where they will have a special opportunity to showcase their video.

    “America’s faith communities play a crucial role in guiding and strengthening not only our spiritual health, but our emotional and physical health as well,” the First Lady said. “Over the past two years, I’ve been inspired by all of the faith leaders and congregations who have taken action to get active and eat healthier, and so we’re launching our Let’s Move! video contest to highlight some of the best examples. I know there’s so much incredible work being done – and I can’t wait to hear some of these stories first-hand at the White House.”

    Be sure to check out more Let’s Move Faith and Communities success stories for additional ideas on getting active, healthy eating, and making healthy food affordable and accessible to your community. To sign up and join our network of supporters, please visit us online.

    Ari Schoenholtz is a Program Analyst at the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



  • Join the (Job) Clubs!

    During the past month, the Partnerships Center at the Department of Labor has taken their Job Clubs Initiative on the road, hosting regional events in Kansas City, Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Grand Rapids. The events promote the efforts of local faith and community-based employment support groups in getting Americans back to work. They also facilitate partnerships between these job clubs and public and private partners, such as the workforce investment system, community foundations, and employers.

    In Kansas City, MO the DOL Center held the event at St. James United Methodist Church, the congregation of Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, where his son, Emanuel Cleaver III serves as senior pastor. The event brought together job club coordinators, faith leaders, nonprofits, government agencies, and employers from across the Kansas City, KC and MO metro region. The local Fox news station covered the event, which you can view here.

    In Minneapolis, MN Deputy Secretary of Labor, Seth D. Harris, joined the DOL Partnerships Center at Temple Israel synagogue for an event that featured the work of seven congregation and nonprofit based job clubs in the Twin Cities metro area. Rev. Rodney Anderson, Senior Chaplain at Gustavus Adolphus College and long-time job club leader shared a tip that one of his job clubs has used: a “Book of Jobs” that catalogs all the employers and open job positions associated with members of the congregation. Deputy Secretary Harris, who was introduced by Representative Keith Ellison, delivered remarks to the assembled audience of more than 150 people about President Obama's new proposals for job training. You can view a slideshow of photos from the event visit here.