WORCESTER, Mass. - U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Jim McGovern spent Tuesday in Worcester amid lawmakers’ two week recess from Capitol Hill, speaking with local Black leaders and touring a nonprofit food pantry.

What You Need To Know

  • U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Rep. Jim McGovern visited two Worcester organizations Tuesday

  • They met with local Black leaders at The Village before touring El Buen Samaritano

  • McGovern said he is hopeful Jeffries will become Speaker of the House

  • Both congressmen said it's important to hear from people 'on the ground doing the work'

Jeffries and McGovern spoke with a number of local organizations at The Village cultural center, including the Massachusetts Women of Color Coalition and NAACP Worcester. Elected officials like City Councilor Khrystian King were also in attendance.

“We’re here to listen, we’re here to learn, and we’re here to uplift these communities,” Jeffries said. “And the best way to be able to do that is to have these intimate conference sessions with people who are on the ground doing the work each and every day.”

McGovern suggested Jeffries is a powerful force in Congress to help address issues at a local and national level, particularly with Republicans holding on to a razor-thin majority.

“Hakeem Jeffries, I hope, will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, and he will be in a position to influence national policy that will have a direct impact on places like Worcester,” McGovern said. “And so, we came here to learn from people who are on the ground doing incredible work in our community, talking about the successes and some of the challenges. So this is unbelievably important.”

Should Jeffries ever become Speaker of the House, McGovern would likely find plenty of common ground to make progress in his work fighting food insecurity.

The two toured El Buen Samaritano, a volunteer-run nonprofit which helps connect Main South families to healthy food, clothing and other necessities.

“More people die from drive-thrus than drive-bys,” Jeffries said. “The lack of access to healthy food which then results in disproportionately high rates of diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, high blood pressure or childhood obesity because of the lack of access to healthy food is an epidemic we have to confront.”

Meanwhile, as Congress begins a two-week recess, additional aid to Ukraine remains an uncertainty. McGovern said he’s upset with House Speaker Mike Johnson’s decision not to bring an aid package passed by the Senate to the House floor for a vote, and worries about the consequences.

“The reason why this is important is because we want to make it clear to Putin that his aggression will not be tolerated,” McGovern said. “And if Putin is successful, I guarantee you it won't be the end of it. Right now, we don't need to have U.S. troops involved. But if he starts to spread his aggression, then there will be a very different situation. So he needs to schedule something.”

Jeffries, meanwhile, added that it’s imperative to get the $95 billion aid package across the finish line once Congress is back in session to signal continued support for Ukraine.

Johnson has previously said he would bring a Ukraine aid bill to the House floor, but wanted to deal with a government spending bill first.