The Community Food Security Coalition held their 14th Annual Conference in New Orleans and the theme of the conference was “Food, Culture, Justice, The Gumbo That Unites Us All.”
Food, Culture, & Justice. What does it all mean? In a nutshell it simply means there is enough food across our great country for everyone, however, because of a lack of policies and cultural awareness the governments of our land -local, state, and federal- have failed the people and because of this failure people are experiencing hunger greater now than ever before.
I must say that I, nor my colleagues that attended this conference, have complaints about the way issues surrounding food in the United States of America are handled. We do, however, have concerns and this conference allowed us the opportunity to network with one another and learn about topics such as: Youth Food Policy Councils, Public Health & the Farm bill, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Child Nutrition Reauthorization and Increasing Healthy Food Access through community efforts just to name a few.
Coming together at this conference presented the attendees with a great opportunity and a huge responsibility. Now that this conference has ended, we have to take all we have learned back home and educate our colleagues, friends and the communities we serve. Most importantly we have to take our GREAT IDEAS and move them forward through action. The goal, as I see it, would be for all people to have access to the same types of food no matter what their personal economic status may be. This of course means access to affordable and nutritious foods in the community you live in. As an employee of the Capital Area Food Bank, I can say without hesitation that the team here works hard every day to provide the community with the healthy foods that we all need to live sustainable lives and so much more.
We make an honest effort to educate, empower and enlighten the people that we are honored to serve by providing outreach in a variety of ways including nutrition education. Our Harvest for Health program teaches the community to grow healthy and nutritious foods in a garden or in an apartment building; the Food for Kids program serves healthy and nutritious snacks and suppers through our Kids Cafe Program; Agency Relations works with our partners to ensure they have the knowledge to effectively serve the community; and in Public Policy and Community Outreach, we not only reach out to our elected officials to educate them on hunger policies that would effectively serve their constituents, but we also go out in the community and educate people on SNAP and sign them up for the program.
I could go on and on about the CAFB and what we are doing. But what I will do is say that we are not perfect and know there are better ways to serve. We do our best to investigate the best and most effective ways to support and serve the community. I am issuing a challenge to any and all organizations that focus on hunger issues, as well as our legislators, to find ways to help those in need. Let’s continue to talk about the problems, share ideas and take what we learn from the community to not just devise plans but PUT THEM INTO ACTION. The overall health of our country is at stake. What are you prepared to do?
I’ll leave you with this story. Several years ago I met a medical doctor from South Africa who said, “I get up and go to work everyday. I am always on time and I work very hard. My colleagues respect me and admire the work I do. When the work day is over I am anxious to get home to my family. I arrive home to my kids and they run to me and hug me – they are happy that daddy is home. My wife is there and she greets me with a hug and kiss. The kids look at me and say, “Daddy we’re hungry.” I walk to the refrigerator and open it and am immediately blinded by the light. My refrigerator is empty.”
This doctor was not talking about himself, but he was talking about the many groups around the world that gather their greatest minds and discuss ideas on how to improve situations such as hunger. These groups come up with the greatest ideas, but when it is time to put the ideas into action nothing is done. In short it is good to develop great ideas, but it is better to put those ideas into action. If not we will all have empty refrigerators in one way or another.
It should go without saying that the Food, Justice, Culture Conference was a wonderful experience. The people there are people that take action. I miss you all and I miss New Orleans – a small part of my spirit will always be in New Orleans. Let’s move our agenda forward together we will succeed.