Early this month I had an awesome opportunity to attend the Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). It was an action packed three days with amazing speakers, connecting with food banks and anti-hunger advocates from around the country, and even learning a little bit too. Here’s the day by day!
The lunch panel was hosted by Greg Kaufmann who edits the TalkPoverty blog – one I’m definitely going to keep an eye on. The two speakers were Sherry Brennan, TV Executive and Kathryn Edin, co-author of “$2 A Day”. Both shared incredible, personal, powerful stories about what it’s like to be in extreme poverty in America – how those families cope, and how little it really takes to help get them back on their feet.
During the sessions we talked about voter registration with clients and candidate education on hunger issues. We also spent much of the weekend talking about Vote to End Hunger, the movement of the national anti-hunger organizations to put hunger and poverty at the forefront of elections this year. Food Lifeline has signed on, and you or your organization can add your name too. The afternoon was talking about senior hunger and how to have an excellent lobby visits including both current and former congressional staffers role-playing lawmakers with varying levels of grumpiness.
Breakfast started with a bang, hearing from both Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Virginia First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe. It was incredibly inspiring to hear everything that is happening in Virginia – they are kicking childhood hunger in the butt. The lunch speaker was Cecilia Munoz, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council. She was instrumental in the recent White House report on the long term impacts of SNAP and a day long summit talking about the importance of SNAP in our country.
The rest of the day included sessions about engaging food bank boards in advocacy work and a chance to meet in our regional groups and plan for visits on the Hill the next day!
Since taking over Food Lifeline’s federal work almost a year ago, I have had a lot of opportunities to meet with congressional staff in Washington State, and to do some awesome site visits with our Western Washington delegation. There is a group of staffers in DC, however, that I have been talking to on the phone and e-mailing with that I had yet to meet in person – and now, finally, the chance! Our group (including folks from Northwest Harvest, Des Moines Area Food Bank, Washington Food Coalition, United Way King County, the Anti-Hunger and Nutrition Coalition, and Nutrition First) stopped quickly at the Breakfast meeting and got to see Representative Bobby Scott, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Senator Jeff Merkley speak before heading off to our first meeting.
The whole day is a bit of a blur – literally running between office buildings and across the National Mall to get to our tightly scheduled, back to back meetings. By the end of it I had the chance to put faces to almost all of the names I’ve been talking to, and stopped by all but two of the ten offices of members who represent our service area in Western Washington. By 6pm I was on a plane, headed back home!
Just a few days following the conference, The Hill posted an editorial from our gracious hosts Diana Aviv, Feeding America CEO and Jim Weill, President of FRAC. It’s a great wrap up of the week and the biggest takeaway of all – it’s time to #endhunger now, and build the political will.