National AntiHunger Policy Conference February 2012
2/27/2012 11:00:00 AM by
Registration for the 2012 Anti-Hunger Policy Conference closed three weeks ago. There was no more room in the inn and yet, the organizers still accommodated 80 more attendees than last year, knowing that standing-room-only would be better than turning people away. The realization that so many individuals want to participate in the dialogue about hunger is both uplifting and inspiring. And yet, each state in the country mirrors the same fact: there is no district in the United States without hunger.
David Shipler, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Working Poor: Invisible in America," shard the national story of hunger. For years, he traveled across the country listening to the struggles of workers and their families. With rent, utilities and transportation costs, the only negotiable item in their budget is food - and it is the one expense that gets squeezed, reduced or eliminated. In two major cities, Boston, MA and Baltimore, MD, malnutrition clinics have now opened. Doctors have started writing prescriptions for food. Millions of hardworking people have been told they must be lazy, because in America if you just work hard enough, you will be prosperous. And for most of our children, learning has become a discretionary activity, which only occurs after you are well-fed. Self-preservation should be our primary motivation to end hunger, he said.
This is an important message for our state, where the debate over how to save our economy has become a hot potato. But all the talk of jobs, taxes and plans for revitalization and growing Oklahoma will be wasted if we continue not to invest in our future workforce. And right now, with
100,000 children in Oklahoma at risk of hunger, our discussion of the state's future needs a new focus.
This weekend I learned of a coalition of public, private and faith-based groups in Colorado who have united together to launch "Hungry for a Change" - a simple act of collecting 10,000 plates from communities that are "fed up with people going hungry."
The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma recently experienced the impact of this kind of collaboration of giving, when during the holiday season Governor Fallin, Tulsa's City Council, Tulsa's Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Reasor's and the George Kaiser Family Foundation rallied around the Food Bank, helping collect more food for the growing number of families in need. These same kinds of partnerships are needed to educate, advocate and make hunger unacceptable.
Hunger is one of the biggest threats to Oklahoma's family values, so we need to get angry. Hunger in any form is not OK - and it is not the Oklahoma we want to grow.
Blog 1 - Posted 2/25/12
Tomorrow I will travel to Washington, D.C. to join hundreds of people who are actively engaged in the fight against hunger. We will gather for the annual National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, hosted by Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).
The event is an invaluable opportunity to learn, exchange and brainstorm ways to raise public awareness of food insecurity and to expand access to nutritious food in our communities. I will also meet with some of Oklahoma's elected officials to share information with them about hunger in our home state.
As with any trip, I have
my pre-dawn checklist of items "not to forget." At first glance, it looks pretty cliche: toothbrush, cell phone charger and boarding passes. And then, at the bottom of the list are THE reminders, not just of my carry-ons, but also of the reasons I am traveling in the first place.
Sometimes advocacy is mistakenly associated with lobbyists - individuals paid to promote an interest group's position. In other circumstances, the word is pictured standing in a courtroom next to an innocent man. Most often, an advocate is seen as a person born out of empathy, passionately speaking for the most vulnerable in our society.
But I am not going to the Capital by myself. In Eastern Oklahoma, advocacy is not done for people; it is done with people. It is a "call to", a "summons" to become involved, to restore dignity, to re-engage people in the decisions that affect their lives.
Headed to Washington, D.C. with me are:
Four signs overflowing with signatures surrounding the words "WE are fighting hunger, feeding hope"
A scrapbook of self-portraits of children who benefit from the Food for Kids Backpack Program followed by pages of reflections and words of gratitude from the community
Printed profiles of each congressional district in our service area, a local approach to hunger in our own backyards
The generosity and hard work of volunteers, donors, agencies, area partners and our Food Bank staff
And maybe most importantly, the stories of grace and determination from Oklahomans who struggle with hunger every day
Please join this community effort by sharing the link to the Food Bank video with your friends, family and with your legislators
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