Bread for the World looks to end hunger at home

Matthew Sheridan

Bread for the World hosted a discussion on Saturday on reducing hunger and a workshop on how to help those who do not have access to healthy food. Titled “Actually Ending Hunger at Home: What Would It Take?” the all-day conference involved speeches from those currently involved in the fight against hunger, one from a  woman who actually experienced hunger herself, and periods of reflection and discussion in which people present could  discuss how exactly they were going to go make progress in the campaign to end hunger. Throughout the day, it became clear that hunger could be ended. Bread For The World is a non-profit group dedicated to lobbying the U.S. government to create and sustain a policy that will help to end hunger. It advocates against hunger across the country, creating awareness about the issue of hunger both domestically and abroad. It is a Christian-based group that uses religious tenets to guide its work against hunger. Bread For The World holds a number of events around the country that encourage people to react to the issue of hunger. While many Bread For The World events are focused mostly on activism, this one also incorporated a “TEDx”-inspired component in which selected speakers spoke about how hunger at home could actually be at home, whether that home meant in this area, in the state or across the country as a whole. The first such speaker was Yael Lehmann, executive director of the Food Trust, a nonprofit group founded in 1992 with the goal of making healthy food accessible. Lehmann said a key to ending hunger is to make healthy food available. The Food Trust reaches 50,000 students every year with food and nutrition education as they try to focus attention on the problem. Lehmann said that the government must pave the path of healthy living to help end hunger. While the average citizen can raise money or volunteer at a local soup kitchen, only the government can support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, food stamps and an economy in which jobs are created and sustained so that people will have money to buy food. The next speaker, Eric Mitchell is currently taking the steps in Washington, D.C., to pressure the government into supporting the fight against hunger. As director of government relations at Bread for the World, Mitchell interacts with congressmen and women on a daily basis to encourage them to vite in favor of the fight against hunger. “It’s not about Republicans and Democrats,” Fran Gouveia of Lancaster, Pa., said. “It’s about changing people’s hearts.” Gouveia was in attendance at the workshop and has been working on hunger projects since 1980. Hunger truly is a nonpartisan issue. It is just a matter of making sure that those in power understand the importance of stopping it, he said. In highlighting the role of government in the fight against hunger, Mitchell’s speech emphasized the importance of the upcoming midterm elections as a part of this process. If the right people are elected and the proper steps are taken, Mitchell said the issue of hunger in the United States can be ended by 2030. While this seems like a far-fetched belief, Mitchell and others at Bread for the World said that if jobs are created, the proper safety net programs such as SNAP and food stamps remain supported. He also spoke about the belief in high human capital, meaning things such as a higher minimum wage, and a partnership between local and national forces against hunger. These measures would allow for hunger to be eliminated for the 49 million Americans who suffer from it. The next speaker was Bill Clark of Philabundance, the Delaware Valley region’s largest hunger relief organization, who offered another promising perspective regarding hunger and how to end it. Clark remarked that slavery, child labor, and women’s right to vote, like hunger, were all once considered to be things that were simply a part of society and could never be truly fixed. Today, each of those are vestiges of a past society. Clark believes that the fight against hunger must begin with success locally before making progress across the nation. He pointed to examples such as the legalization of marijuana and marriage equality as things that made first progress in individual states. Clark believes that it is the participation of the people at the local level that will eventually put the onus on the government to actually do something. “Governments don’t make change,” He says. “People lead change.” The final speaker was Barbie Izquierda. Izquierda became well known from the documentary “A Place at the Table,” which highlights the struggle for food that her and others faced and many millions more not in the movie face everyday.  She spoke of how she would go to her bedroom while her children ate dinner because she did not have enough food for herself, or how she struggles to lead healthy lives for her children now that they do have food and how she hopes to become more known as a hunger advocate then as a person in “A Place at the Table.” From her own experience, Izquierda believes that personal interaction with those who are hungry can get people to feel comfortable speaking out and can go a long way to ending hunger. Throughout the day, various ideas to end hunger were discussed. Philabundance spoke of a non-profit grocery store, Eric Mitchell explained why people must contact politicians and Yael Lehmann, among others, mentioned the importance of nutrition education for the next generation. While hunger is a seemingly endless obstacle, the people in attendance on Saturday believe that with the dedication of the American people on the local level and the representation of the federal government on the national level, hunger at home can be stopped.