In May, The Nourish Network for the Right to Food held the Hunger and Health Gathering at Rutgers University that gave eight different organizations the opportunity to build relationships and create space for shared learning. Staff attended from The Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, NY; Center for Food Action in Englewood, NJ; Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, NJ; God’s Love We Deliver in New York, NY, MEND in Essex County, NJ; SAPNA in Bronx, NY; Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Bloomington, IN; and WhyHunger in New York, NY. WhyHunger is working to build a community of practice to explore the intersections of hunger and health among food access organizations that are addressing food insecurity and poor health outcomes in their communities and this gathering was an important building block.
As individuals got to know each other, they were able to delve into topics and discuss the big structural issues that perpetuate hunger, such as living wage and the corporate influence on the emergency food system. In small workshops, topics ranged from advocacy and coalition building to the lack of comprehensive health literacy that addresses the differing cultural perceptions about nutrition and body image. A deeper understanding was developed throughout the day and participants articulated their shared belief that to end hunger we have to end poverty.
On the final day of the gathering, Elijah’s Promise organized a site visit that demonstrated how a holistic health centered approach to food insecurity is a critical step in transforming the emergency food system from one based in charity to one that is about social justice. From their work in their community garden, market, culinary school, pay-what-you-can café and the soup kitchen which offers health meals in a café style restaurant, Elijah’s Promise shows how addressing food insecurity requires addressing the whole person, understanding the quality of the food you serve and the importance of advocating healthy practices. By the end of the gathering, through the shared learning based in relationship building that these organizations were able to experience together, there was a clear call to action for continued conversation, partnership and collective action to build the movement for food justice.