ONT's Mobile Market Manager Tracy Kane attended the 2017 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in March.
ONT's work is directly impacted by legislation at the state and federal level. From funding for food banks to purchase food, to the safety net that our community members rely on when they can't earn enough to pay the bills, strong policies and programs are important to make sure no one in our community is going hungry.
Over a breakfast meeting, I eagerly joined some of my fellow constituents from The North Shore Hunger Network (NSHN). The NSHN is a coalition of hunger-relief organizations, who by joining forces, are dedicated to serving Boston’s North Shore efforts in building food security. Accompanying me this year in representing the NSHN at F.R.A.C., were my peers from Beverly Boot Strap’s and Gloucester’s Open Door.
As I looked around the conference I was inspired to be under the same roof with over 1,300 people who were all fighting for the same cause. There were representatives from all avenues of the anti-hunger effort – be it on the front lines as case workers or individuals running Food Pantries, Mobile Markets and Food Banks to those behind the scenes working as legal advisors, advocates or policy lobbyists. We were all soldiers working for the people, all woven with the same thread and united by a common goal to learn new and better ways to help more people.
Throughout the first two days of the conference I took a total of 6 different workshops on topics including partnering with health care providers, the effects of the economy and policy on food insecurity, addressing the needs of a growing aging population, and how to work with legislators on policies to support food security.
Hill Day, March 6:
As an attendee of the conference, I had the opportunity to join peers from across the country for Hunger on the Hill Day. The North Shore Hunger Network met with representatives from Senators Markey and Warren's offices. Our visits focused on strengthening the security net of SNAP, Child and Senior Nutrition Programs and Emergency Food Assistance Programs - all of which are critical parts of keeping people in our region fed each day.
I had a wealth of prepared reports, statistics, and information about the programs at ONT and the people we serve. But, most importantly, I wanted to share the stories of ONT's guests - constituents who are represented by our Representatives and Senators in Washington, DC.
Kate*, a single working mom comes regularly to our market. She told us that before she started coming to ONT she would feel “sick to her stomach” as she watched her daughter open the refrigerator door only to find it “empty - with nothing but a bright light shining back at her”. Now she shops with us and her daughter has plenty of food.
ONT is serving many more elderly guests. A few weeks ago, while I loaded her bags of groceries into her car, Nancy* felt the need to explain to me why she was shopping with us. She explained that she used to work two jobs, but then she fell and broke her hip, a year later she lost her husband to cancer, a year after that she lost her home - and now here she is – struggling without enough food and shopping in our market.
I closed my meeting with the representatives, and reflected for myself: the faces of the hungry look just like the faces of all of our neighbors. The two guests whose stories I shared were so appreciative of ONT and have expressed that simply being able to put food on their tables has changed their lives in incomprehensible ways.