We Speak Thriving – Not Hunger (February 25, 2019)

Sunday through Tuesday of this week, 1100 persons from across the U.S. are gathering at the annual Anti-Hunger Policy Conference sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, D.C. to learn, network, build advocacy skills, and lobby in pursuit of a common goal – ending hunger.

Workshops I attended the first day of the conference addressed some thorny questions for anti-hunger advocates: How can we help the voices of those who have had to rely on food pantries and government safety net programs to be heard by lawmakers – to be advocates with them, rather than only advocates for them? How can we speak effectively to media outlets or policymakers who don’t share our views on the root causes of hunger and the role of government in addressing it? How can we mobilize swift and powerful responses to damaging policy proposals – and what do we mean by “success” and how do we measure it?

At lunch, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s first woman and the first African American elected to Congress, gave what many called the best AHPC keynote ever. She was funny, heartbreaking, triumphant and inspiring as she spoke of her path to Congress – her first elected office – and her role in fighting for a Farm Bill that would help, not punish, people dealing with both joblessness and hunger. She revealed her personal grounding in faith in her comments on her sense of vocation and what keeps her going —and when she led the audience in the sort of call-and-response of her own church’s worship tradition: “We’re not going back — because I’ve got your back!”
Watch a video of her speech

A comment the congresswoman made during the Q & A has stuck with me: “We don’t speak hunger, we speak thriving.” That is an antidote to the cynicism and even despair that can come from a seemingly interminable struggle against human suffering. It affirms the essentially positive, hopeful vision – the “holy imagination” – of human well-being that drives, I believe, everyone who gives to a food pantry or writes to their elected official or is in any other way involved in the fight against hunger.

And it also acknowledges that “people do not live by bread alone” – that having reliable access to enough nutritious food is bound up with other facets of human thriving including health, growth, work, play, family, faith, community, and connectedness to creation. Our faith as Christians tells us – and we are not alone in this – that this is what God wills for all people, and that in serving God by loving our neighbor, our own lives are enlarged and enriched.

On Monday and Tuesday, together with several others from our state, I will be visiting the offices of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. You can join us in advocating for our hungry neighbors – children, seniors, veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, working families, jobless adults, and others – through the WCC’s Legislative Alert Center.

Peter Bakken
WCC Public Policy Coordinator

Read more public policy focus from Dr. Peter Bakken here

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