Empowering Families and Communities: The White House Recognizes HSC’s Jovita Flores

January 07, 2013

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Jovita Flores and USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, with Champions of Change award.

Today we are thrilled to highlight the tremendous work of Jovita Flores, who serves as manager of Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables at HSC. As the new year begins, and we think about all the individuals who've inspired us in the past year, it's hard not think of Jovita.

This fall the White House highlighted her as one of 11 Champions of Change — leaders who hailed from around the country and are at the forefront of erasing hunger and increasing wellness. 

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan commended Jovita and her fellow Champions of Change, saying: 

Today’s champions are examples of the groundbreaking work being done to tackle hunger at home and abroad. These individuals are making improved access to healthy food a reality for millions of individuals in need… We applaud the champions for their efforts to empower families and communities and to reduce the depth and severity of hunger around the world.

Back in Chicago, Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, personally recognized Jovita for her powerful work to address both child hunger and obesity through her efforts in the community and in school.

Jovita's remarkable personal vision, energy and dedication have driven her to the incredible work that garnered national recognition. In her nomination for the award, HSC President and CEO Rochelle Davis explained:

Jovita Flores is an inspiration, leader and advocate for healthy living in her community. She is also a friend and cheerleader to countless families seeking to put healthy food on their table each day. Neighbors and parents at local schools describe her as someone who has a way of showing up when they need help, someone who connects them with resources and unfailingly encourages them to make small changes to create healthier lives for themselves and for their families.

Jovita lives in Little Village, a primarily Latino Chicago neighborhood facing significant health disparities and high rates of both obesity and hunger. She is the manager and front-line advocate for Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables, a coalition that brings together parents and community members to create healthy school environments for the city’s children, particularly those in low-income minority communities with tremendous health disparities. In addition to connecting families and schools with the knowledge and resources for healthy eating, Jovita’s leadership has been key in laying the groundwork and maintaining momentum for Chicago’s breakfast in the classroom program, an initiative that ensures all children are able to start their day with a healthy meal.

. . . Jovita’s strategies are unique and innovative in that they are grounded in a recognition of the paradox that children and families who are at risk of hunger are also at great risk of obesity and its related health problems. Jovita focuses not just on connecting families with food, but on ensuring that this food provides the nutritional fuel for learning, growing and living a healthy and active lifestyle.

Jovita very simply embodies the messages she shares so effectively with families about the value of and practical approaches to healthy eating. She has personally embraced a commitment to healthy eating and demonstrates on a daily basis that this is a worthy and attainable effort: she shares her healthy versions of traditional recipes, introduces parents to new knowledge about hunger and childhood obesity, connects schools with resources and challenges everyone she meets to champion healthy eating as a way to create a bright future for children and families in our communities.

With heartfelt admiration and appreciate, HSC salutes Jovita Flores for her nationally acclaimed work. 

Plus: Tomorrow, we will feature the perspective that Jovita shared on the White House Champions of Change blog.