Connect Blog | WhyHunger

We are happy to share our animated video "If You Give Someone a Fish..." that debuted at the 2016 WhyHunger Chapin Awards and illustrates WhyHunger’s unique approach to solving the hunger problem and invites you to think beyond the familiar. The video was introduced by Executive Director Noreen Springstead. Here is an excerpt from her remarks:

"Hunger is a solvable problem. Harry and Bill knew that more than 40 years ago, and I am more assured than ever that the solution is within reach. There is a growing awareness and acknowledgement in our society that our current systems are broken. Generations are coming together around the bold truth that we must ensure that EVERYONE has access to opportunity, living wages, racial equity, nutritious food, and to justice. We must push for those rights in order to realize the type of world that we want to live in. We are seeing solutions springing up in grassroots-led movements across the country and around the world. Those grassroots innovations and movements are strengthened when organizations like WhyHunger walk the road with them, support their efforts, amplify their voices and weave them together into movements that can reach farther, move faster and grow indefinitely. They need allies – and we need allies. First and foremost, we need the leadership of people most affected by hunger and poverty, frontline grassroots partners who can inform and inspire this burgeoning movement, and we also need you to walk this road with us."

We hope you find the video as inspiring as we do!  

Written by Kristin Schafer. Reposted with permission. This article was originally featured in the Pesticide Action Network’s GroundTruth blog.

The science is in. Our food system's continued reliance on pesticides is putting children's health at risk. Kids across the country are exposed in various ways, but those who grow up in agricultural areas often face a "double dose" of pesticides from nearby fields. Rural children are — quite literally — on the frontlines of pesticide exposure.

These are the key findings in the Kids on the Frontline report, released today in communities across the country. Our roundup of recent science powerfully underscores both the scope of the problem we collectively face, and the urgent need for change.

Ever stronger science

Back in 2012, I worked with our scientists here at PAN to produce A Generation in Jeopardy. We reviewed more than 200 studies examining the links between pesticide exposures and childhood health harms. We found that, yes, science indicates that pesticides are undermining children's health.

That report caught the attention of both state and federal policymakers, and was reinforced by a statement on the dangers of pesticides to children from the American Academy of Pediatrics later that year. But the pace of policy change is painstakingly slow. And those who benefit most from continued use of pesticides go to bat — with deep pockets — to keep things as they are.

Meanwhile, the case for real food system change just keeps getting stronger. For this new report, we looked at the most recent studies, focusing in on how children in rural, agricultural communities are exposed and affected. Once again, the science clearly indicates increased risk — with strong connections to childhood cancers and neurodevelopmental harms.

Childhood cancer risk is up

Scientists have long understood that kids are more vulnerable than adults to the harms of pesticide exposure. From the brain to the immune system to reproductive organs, the body’s systems are developing quickly throughout childhood. Interference from pesticides at critical moments — even at very low levels — can derail the process in damaging ways.

This includes increasing the risk of cancer. Studies indicate that pesticide exposure in the womb or exposure of either the mother or the father before conception can increase childhood cancer risk. Living in rural agricultural areas can up the risk of childhood leukemia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leukemia and brain tumors are the most common — and fastest rising — types of cancer among children, up between 40 and 50 percent since 1975. The science connecting pesticide exposure to higher risk of these two cancers is particularly strong.

Altered brain development

Then there's the science linking pesticides to neurodevelopmental harms. Research shows that even extremely low levels of exposure to a range of common pesticides — especially in the womb and early childhood years — can increase the risk of developmental disorders and delays.
Some 15 percent of all U.S. children — one of every six — now have one or more developmental disabilities.

In one study highlighted in Kids on the Frontline, scientists reviewed more than two dozen studies published between 2002 and 2012 exploring the impact of pesticide exposure on children’s developing nervous system. They found that “all but one of the 27 studies evaluated showed some negative effect of pesticides on neurobehavioral development.” Impacts ranged from reduced IQ levels and motor skills, to developmental disorders like ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

We can do better

The science linking pesticides with children's health harms was already strong back in 2012, and it just keeps getting stronger. How much more evidence do we need? Here at PAN we believe it's time to build a system of food and farming that supports children's health, rather than putting them at risk.

Here are some of the concrete steps we recommend in Kids on the Frontline:

Reduce overall pesticide use: Policymakers need to set an ambitious national use reduction goal for agricultural pesticides. Once this goal is in place, officials at all levels should implement strong policies and programs to reach the goal — including accessible use reporting systems to track progress.

Protect children first: Our national use reduction goals should prioritize action on those pesticides most harmful to children. In addition, protective pesticide-free buffer zones should be established around schools and daycare centers in rural communities across the country.

Invest in healthy, innovative farming: It's time to provide significant and meaningful incentives and recognition for farmers stepping off the pesticide treadmill, and prioritize investment in healthy, sustainable and resilient farming practices.

To learn more, download and read the Kids on the Frontline report in its entirety. 

Our longtime friend and Board Member Joe D'Urso's 3rd annual Rockland-Bergen Music Festival is coming up on June 25-26, so I interviewed him to learn more about the festival and what motivates him to organize and include a cause-related element at his festival.
Why is it important for you to host an event such as The Rockland-Bergen Music Festival? 
It’s a mixture of a few things. I’ve lived basically my whole life in that area, on the borders of those two counties. As a kid I grew up in Rockland, and the end of my street was Bergen. As an adult I live in Bergen, and the end of my street is basically Rockland. Even musically to me, when I think of New Jersey I think of the sounds of the Jersey Shore, as well as Frank Sinatra. When I think of New York music, I think of the punk scene that came out of New York, as well as the folk scene that came out in the early 60’s. Musically, it all makes sense to me. I’ve always wanted to put together a music festival that combines my two passions: one being music, and two being able to bring in different organizations that I work with, and have concern for, and put them all together. This way the music fans discover some of those organizations, and support them. It is something that is fairly unusual; other festivals will have a couple of organizations or events, where they’ll raise money for one organization, maybe two. This year we will have 15 nonprofits onsite. My idea behind it is that between those 15 organizations that may grow to 20 25 next year, people attending that festival will hopefully find one organization that they are drawn to. Where hunger and poverty might be something of concern to you and I, it may not be for another person. Not that they don’t care, but they may be drawn to other causes like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or The Make a Wish Foundation. I just think that having peopled drawn to something relevant to them, makes them more active and caring, which is a good idea. I am fortunate that we have, what we’re calling Active’s Circle of Hope this year.  I have a great organization called Active International that will be donating money to each one of the organizations that I have invited. In the first two years, there was just a donation from me, but by having a bigger company involved now, it means a more sizable donation on top of whatever each organization raises each day.
 How has being a WhyHunger Board Member impacted you or your music? 
I have been a board member for about 5 years now, and have been with WhyHunger for about 15 years before I joined the board. I don’t just look at it from a board member’s perspective, but as an active member of WhyHunger for almost 20 years. I think that it’s helped me as a songwriter, and as a person just to be reminded that there are other people around us in need. I think that there are people out there that you can tell that to 100 times, and they are still not going to do anything for whatever reason. One of the things that we try to do as board members, and as musicians, is to remain hopeful that maybe on the 101st try, those people may change their mind. It takes a lot of perseverance, and what some might even call foolish persistence, but I use that in the most positive way, not a negative.
In what way does music and social justice connect?
For me personally, music and social justice connects without a doubt. I’ve always been a fan of people like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and those types of songwriters who could have fun songs, but many of their songs were also talking about something bigger than themselves, or the fun night they were about to have; it was about society. I think it’s hard just to be of a somewhat relative intelligence, and not look around and be able to see what you feel is morally wrong and right in society. Now, not everyone is going to agree with you, and you may not always be right, but I think that if you feel passionate about something and at least it stirs some emotions, then hopefully, something comes out of that. In that way, it all ties in together.
What can people look forward to at the festival? 
Well first and foremost, I have 22 very talented bands and artists over the two days. It’s a very unique setting because it’s set in a woodsy, laid back park. It’s different from many other areas found at bigger festivals and it’s a very relaxed setting. We’ll have great food, great beverages, and as someone had said, which is probably the best quote I read last year or two years ago, is that ‘It’s like being at a family BBQ, but with famous people.’ That is exactly the kind of feeling I want. I don’t allow any VIP sections. I’ve never been a fan of someone’s wallet determining who the better music fan is. I realize that is part of the music business, but I’ve made it not part of my festival. So I try and keep it very calm, and have everyone on the same playing field.
Most popular food item at the festival? 
One of my main food vendors is called Bailey’s SmokeHouse and they have the best pull pork sandwiches around. They also have the typical burgers, hot dogs, chicken, black bean burgers and it’s just lots of great food. They are one of the most famous restaurants in the area and they serve about 4,000 people a week, something crazy like that. I also have a company called Growler and Gil, who will be pouring 6-8 different craft beers. This year, for the first time, I’ll be bringing in a company that specializes in vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. I am trying to make sure that everyone is taken care of!
Anything else you’d like to add?
There are two stages at my festival, the first one is called the Glow-Seeger Stage. Glow after my mom and Seeger after Pete Seeger. The second stage is named after two friends of mine that recently passed away, Mr. Lou/Stefan’s Turning Point Stage. Lou was the bass player in my band for many, many years, and Stefan was in charge of The Turning Point, a venue that has hosted me many times. I had a tough decision while naming the stages because of my involvement with WhyHunger and Harry Chapin, because I wanted to get a Harry name in there as well, but since Pete has recently passed away, I felt that out of respect to Pete, I should include his name in there. 
I want folks to know that I’ve really try to personalize everything and that we have truly grown. We have tripled our sponsorship this year, which is a great thing, even while staying true to our values. One sponsors asked me if they can have their people’s chairs set up upfront, and I said no, even knowing that they could withdraw their sponsorship, but what I try to do is offer something different like food and beverage vouchers for their guests because as I mentioned before, I don’t want to separate people and create divides. It is very important to me to keep that family vibe.
A special thanks to Joe for taking the time to tell me about his event which unites several great nonprofit organizations like Whyhunger! For more information on the festival visit // and to buy tickets click here.
Be sure to follow them on Twitter! 

WhyHunger’s What Ferguson Means for the Food Justice Movement series is a bold attempt to explore the way in which police violence and institutionalized anti-black racism is deeply interconnected to food, land and Black bodies. What is the connection between the death of Black people at the hands of the state (police shootings) and the death of Black people at the hands of the corporate food system (diet-related disease/land displacement/redlining)?

To lift up critical voices of the movement, WhyHunger’s Beatriz Beckford facilitated a national call with dynamic organizers and activists across the country to gather a collective interrogation of these issues from the perspective of Black activists organizing around food justice. Issue #5 features food justice activist Tanya Fields, who is the Founder and Executive Director of The BLK ProjeK, an economic development enterprise that utilizes the good food movement to provide opportunities for marginalized women and youth of color in the Bronx. In this piece Tanya gives her perspective as a mother, and emphasizes that “radical mothering” and being unapologetic in working to build a community (safety, healthy food, quality education) that your child deserves and can thrive in, will create a more just system for all.


Beatriz Beckford: Black womyn and more specifically Black mothers and families have always been involved in movements and, I would argue, the love of kin and the pursuit of a better quality of life for our loved ones is what often times pushes mothers and families into movement work. How does being a Black womyn and a mother in the food movement create both barriers and opportunities for participating in and leading social change efforts?

Tanya Fields: You make the road by walking. When other moms, particularly low income Black mothers have seen Black women in this space as leaders, the reception is that people feel very inspired and motivated. If this mom with her whole gang of children can do this, in the spirit of creating a better world for our kids and everyone, it plants the seed for everyone else. When you step into motherhood, you don’t stop being a woman but your focus changes. Most mothers will tell you that they put her children’s needs before their own so it would be natural that mothers would want to be an integral part of social change. We want to clothe our children, feed our children and provide our children with the means to live a good life. We strive to enrich their quality of life. That’s why I always say that mothers have to be on the frontlines in movement work because we are creating a world that’s going to be safe and healthy and whole for our children and loved ones.

Download and continue reading the full issue. Also, join this important conversation online using hashtag #FoodJusticeVoices to share your thoughts!

Since 1993, the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive has been the largest national one-day food drive held in the U.S., allowing customers to place bags of non-perishable food items by their mailboxes before their letter carriers’ regular pick-up time, which the carriers will collect for delivery to a local hunger organization.

This year, letter carriers have partnered with Amp Your Good to offer an exciting new donation option: For the first time, customers can also donate fresh fruits and vegetables to the drive. Beginning on May 1, anyone can visit to select and purchase the fresh food items they want to donate. Amp Your Good will then deliver that food to Stamp Out Hunger–approved hunger organizations in New York City and San Francisco.

Letter carriers’ decided to offer an online donation option as a means to help increase donations and in response to input that they’ve received from hunger organizations looking to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables they receive.

Amp Your Good’s online Crowd-Feeding system makes it easy for people to donate food items that match the needs of people facing hunger. According to Patrick O’Neill, CEO of Amp Your Good, “People get pretty excited at the idea of donating fruits and vegetables to help those who are struggling.”

NALC Director of Community Services Pam Donato said, “We see the online option as a great way to engage people about our food drive and provide them an opportunity to donate fresh produce items to the Stamp Out Hunger.”

The Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive takes place each year on the second Saturday in May. This year, that’s Saturday, May 14. On that day, postal customers can simply place bags of non-perishable food items by their mailboxes for collection by their local letter carriers. Online donations through Amp Your Good can be made May 1–31, 2016.

The 2015 food drive gathered 70.6 million pounds of food, bringing the grand total to more than 1.4 billion pounds since the annual national drive began in 1993. As an official partner, WhyHunger supports this effort to get more nutritious food into the hands of those that need it. For information and to make a food donation click here.  

This spotlight is a feature of WhyHunger’s digital storytelling that showcases grassroots organizations and community leaders through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real view of projects that are working to alleviate food insecurity and increase communities’ access to nutritious food. We believe that telling one’s story is not only an act of reclaiming in the face of the dominant food narrative of this country, but also an affirmation that the small acts of food sovereignty happening across the country add up to a powerful, vital collective. Up today: Florida Organic Growers; Gainesville, FL. Story and photos by David Hanson.

“Please don’t make me get squash,” Keri says to her sister. “We had so much squash with grandma and I don’t know what it was – the mushy texture, maybe – but I just never wanted to eat it again. It’s a creepy gourd to me. We got enough creepy people in our life, we don’t need creepy vegetables.”

So Keri and her husband John, and Keri’s sister and her baby boy do not buy squash at the Alachua Farmer’s Market on a Saturday in late November.

They buy radishes, arugula, artisanal cheese, green onions, spinach, lemons, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spring mix, and broccoli. For just over $25 in EBT food stamp money.

“We’re ‘pescavores’ and this is enough to feed us for a week and a half,” Keri says. “It would cost over $50 to get all this at Publix or Ward’s (the best chain grocers in Gainesville).”

Keri is a funny, expressive woman. She shares her enthusiasm for her market morning ramble audibly, commenting on the beautiful greens or debating aloud whether they should get the pecans. They end up being too expensive of an indulgence. This is her 24-year-old sister’s first farmer’s market experience. Keri called her and said, “Come on! Bring your little boy. Let’s go to the market together as a family, European style!”

The Alachua Farmer’s Market has a small tent to the right of its entrance. The tent has a table with a laptop, a credit card swiper, and some pamphlets. Since 2009 Florida Organic Growers, a local non-profit with a mission to support and promote sustainable organic agriculture, has managed the swipe card booth at this market on Saturdays, and the bigger, busier downtown farmers market on Wednesdays.

The Alachua County government funded the first year of the EBT and swipe card booth. Funds from the USDA's Community Food Project (CFP) grant have supported the last few years. Annual costs run $27,000 to operate the swipe option. There’s the equipment cost and the paid labor to be present at the booth, but the majority of that overhead figure pays for the USDA’s reporting requirements for food stamp use. It’s an ironic twist – that a hindrance to making fresh, local food available to food stamp recipients is the cost of record-keeping for the USDA, who hands out the food stamps – but it speaks to the hidden complexities of opening farmer’s markets to low-income populations.

“No single vendor at the market could afford the EBT swipe card costs,” says Derek Helmick, a part-time employee for FOG. Derek is a policy, numbers-minded person. The kind of person needed to find matching coordinates between the bureaucracy of government programs and the microcosm small-scale of a weekly farmer’s market like this one in Alachua County. Helmick has nearly completed a guidebook to break down the process of bringing EBT swipe machines to any farmers market, anywhere. They hope for twenty-five more similar market programs in Florida next year.

The swipe machine can be used with credit and debit cards, as well. So it’s not the stigmatized “food stamp booth in the corner.” Whether you swipe your Visa or your EBT card for $25, you get 25 in tokens to spend that day or on future market days. That means the farmer vendors see more purchases with the option of credit card swiping open to all consumers.

Continue reading >>>




Welcome to WhyHunger’s Connect Blog featuring stories, projects and articles from the community-based organizations, organizers and social movements that are building the movement for food justice.

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