One of the most common misconceptions is the assumption that if people are hungry, it means they do not have jobs and are living on the streets. What most people don’t understand is that anyone can experience hunger, says Michael Reisch, the Daniel Thursz Distinguished Professor of Social Justice at the University Of Maryland School of Social Work.
Hunger is a silent epidemic that affects over 50 million Americans, Mr. Reisch says, stressing the importance of making sure families are aware of the SNAP program, formally known as food stamps. This program has potential to improve food choices among low-income populations, he says.
Mr. Reisch was the keynote speaker at the second Annual Fighting Hunger in Maryland Conference: A Call to Action.
It brought together leaders from state and local agencies, nonprofits, schools and other entities devoted to reducing hunger and poverty.
The October 16 conference focused on food access as well as nutrition and outreach strategies. It also offered valuable advice and best practices for practitioners, providers, advocates and policymakers throughout Maryland.
Maryland Food Access & Nutrition Network (MFANN) is a statewide coalition of federal, state and local government, non-profit, faith- and community-based organizations, including the Capital Area Food Bank.
At one point in the day, photos had the audience riveted. Photos taken by parents and caregivers of the people who matter most to them were flshed on a huge screen. Witnesses to Hunger, a project about those raising children with limited or no income, had individuals speaking first-hand about their struggles facing hunger.
The project asks caregivers of young children to use digital cameras to capture the issues they feel are most important to them and to their children. The photographs and life experiences help inform policymakers. They are a living testimony of the need for legislation to put an end to hunger and poverty.
The conference opened with a welcome by Cathy Demeroto, Director of Maryland Hunger Solution, and lunchtime speaker Audrey Rowe, Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), shared her knowledge why students need healthier food options.
Organizations and advocates heard thought-provoking talks on:
- strategies for effective SNAP outreach;
- Farm Bill basics;
- child nutrition and WIC policy;
- changing paradigms in food distribution;
- local food, local hunger;
- food security and nutrition strategies for seniors and
- child nutrition and community outreach strategies.
MFANN did a wonderful job of bringing together individuals and organizations to network and share stories and strategies to end hunger.
Bringing all stakeholders together provides valuable insights and sharing of best practices, because ending hunger is one task that cannot be accomplished alone.