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Bill Ayers Grassroots SolutionsI went on the March on Washington in 1963. It changed my life forever. I became a small part of the Civil Rights Movement, marched with Doctor Martin Luther King several times and have spent my life trying to fight hunger and poverty afflicting all people, but especially people of color, by following a dual path: first, supporting positive laws and government policies that reduce hunger and poverty as well as promoting racial justice. Second, being a part of a grassroots movement of community based organizations all over the country that are working diligently and often with few resources to help people to get out of poverty and change the systems that create poverty.

We live now in uncertain times. There is a possibility that federal programs which have helped tens of millions of Americans stay out of hunger and poverty may be cut drastically or eliminated. The plan seems to be to cut taxes for the wealthy and cut benefits for everyone else, especially people of color, but also including millions of middle class folks who depend on Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to stay out of poverty. Will the new administration support efforts to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour? Will they block grant Food Stamps, now known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)? Will the Federal Government gradually withdraw resources from the fields of education, housing, healthcare, environmental protection and voting rights? Right now, we do not know but the future does not look good. So, how should we concerned citizens organize and move forward for economic and racial justice for all?

There are two parallel tracks of equal importance, both of which involve political and social action. First, we need to ally ourselves with and support Congress members, governors and attorney generals, as well as mayors and other city officials who believe in government of and for all people, not just the super-rich. The campaign to preserve and improve our government programs means developing a list of priorities and identifying champions in the House of Representatives and the Senate who will fight the worst outrageous budget and service cuts and promote compromise on issues where reasonable legislators can agree such as investment in our Infrastructure. It also means encouraging governors and mayors to make their voices heard in protest of bad legislation and in promoting some of their best state and city programs that could be models for other cities, states or the country. National and state nonprofit organizations as well as businesses and labor unions need to overcome their differences and join in a movement to protect our rights and the functioning of our governments.

None of this will be successful by itself. The national effort needs to partner with grassroots organizations that are on the ground, working with and listening to the needs and creativity of poor and middle class Americans who are hurting financially and emotionally and who feel isolated and unheard. It also must encourage and support leadership from the Black, Latino, Native American and Asian communities.

An important example of this kind of grassroots action, which I’ve spent my life working to help build, can be found in the Hunger Movement. It started out some forty years ago as an unorganized group of emergency food providers who saw the problem of hunger in their communities and decided to do something that seemed obvious- feed hungry people. Over the years a growing number of these community based organizations realized that feeding people was only the first step to fighting hunger. They needed to help people access a better quality of food to prevent obesity and diabetes so they partnered with small farmers, community gardeners, farmers markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and local food stores that were willing to donate healthy food. They needed to go beyond feeding to building social justice. They needed to prioritize the leadership of those most affected by hunger, especially communities of color, women and youth.

They also partnered with organizations that would help folks to connect with other resources to help them get jobs, housing, healthcare and childcare. Many also joined the Fight for $15 campaign and connected with efforts to provide benefits to low wage workers. Their work has borne fruit in dozens of states and cities.

To truly “Reinvest in America” we must have both of these parallel tracks to grow in health and power: legislative action on all levels and community organizing driven by those most affected by hunger and poverty to help grow resources locally AND amplify their voices on a local, state and national level. WhyHunger, the organization that the late Harry Chapin and I co-founded in 1975, is a grassroots support organization that works with hundreds of community based organizations all across the country and partners with many other national and state organizations to support community organizing, build the capacity of local organizations, promote positive legislation and prevent severe budget cuts to the very programs that keep people out of poverty.

This is a time when we all must stand together for the values that we believe in and the resources we need to help eradicate hunger and dramatically reduce poverty. It is indeed a time of challenge but also a time of opportunity for all who care.

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Sign On! Calling all community-based, state and national organizations to join WhyHunger and The National Anti-Hunger Organizations (NAHO) in sending a clear message to the incoming Administration and the Congress that we must protect a strong and effective national nutrition safety net for low-income individuals and families! Programs like the National School Breakfast and School Lunch, SNAP, Summer Meals and WIC are a critical part of ensuring everyone has access to nutritious food and the first line of defense against hunger.  As we work together to transform our food system, build social justice and invest in community-led solutions that attack the...
WhyHunger and Hunger Is are proud to support breakfast programs around the U.S. Children who miss meals regularly, especially breakfast, are more likely to be held back a grade, and receive special education services and mental health counseling than children who do not struggle with food insecurity. Children who eat a healthy breakfast have increased brain development, ability to focus, better attendance and overall academic capacity, according to the Illinois School Breakfast Financial Sustainability Report written by the Greater Chicago Food Depository. I spoke with Suzanne Lee who works in the Policy and Advocacy Department of the Greater Chicago Food Depository Breakfast...
This is the second article of the series “People’s Agroecology”, written by Blain Snipstal, a returning generation farmer in Maryland, at Black Dirt Farm. Blain is a youth member of the global movement La Via Campesina International. As part of the continuation of the Campesino a Campesino Agroecology Encounter led by farmworkers in the US, Blain visited four of the leading organizations in this effort to learn more about challenges and current practices to advance their goals through Agroecology. Intro “Our work is grounded in the larger political and social struggle for equality, dignity and self-determination of indigenous citizens, migrants and...

Agroecology in Puerto Rico

CORBIN LAEDLEIN , JANUARY 4, 2017 tagged as food sovereignty agroecology
“I feel that that’s the revolution; a just way to live, a way in harmony with not just with the environment—with people, with everything around us because we are nature, we are a part of nature. Agroecology for me represented the most harmonious way to create that way of life.” - Josué Lopez On November 11th to 13th, social activists and farmers from La Via Campesina member organization Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica de Puerto Rico, El Proyecto Agroecológico El Josco Bravo, and other activist collectives organized the Campamento Agroecológico de Formación Política [Agroecological Encampment for Political Formation] at the Siembra...
WhyHunger and Hunger Is are proud to support breakfast programs around the U.S. The San Diego Food Bank received a grant from Hunger Is to enhance their School Breakfast Initiative. I talked to Jim Floros their Executive Director to learn more about the food bank itself and how their School Breakfast...

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WhyHunger announced today that their annual Hungerthon campaign raised a record-breaking $1.1 million this year for the fight against hunger and poverty. Partnering with SiriusXM Satellite Radio, CBS Radio New York, Cumulus New York and iHeartMedia, funds were raised through a coordinated month long effort including radio broadcasts, merchandise, a...

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WhyHunger is a member of the National Anti-Hunger Organziations (NAHO), along with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), No Kid Hungry, and the Alliance to End Hunger. The following statement is delivered by NAHO. December 14, 2016 ─ Our organizations, which make up the National Anti-Hunger Organizations, are committed to...

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A month ago, I got to attend the Facing Race Conference in Atlanta with several colleagues two days after the election and it could not have been timelier. After this long election, many were exhausted, panic-stricken and scared and this was the perfect place to heal and find opportunities to...

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Tis’ the season! This time of year we’re all thinking about special gifts that we can give to loved ones, so how about making sure at least one of those is a gift with meaning? Here’s our annual WhyHunger Holiday Gift Guide, a compilation of 10 unique, staff favorites that...

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