Mia Hubbard on Coming Out Hungry Podcast – Gotta’ Give ‘Em HOPE: Paths Toward a Future Without Hunger

June 7, 2021

In this CLEAR Finance Chat, we conclude our discussion with guests Barbie Izquierdo, Emilio Tavarez, and Mia Hubbard to talk about solutions to the problem of food insecurity. In this episode we ask our group of anti-hunger experts: What policies and actions are working in addressing food insecurity? What doesn’t work? And what are the most effective steps we can take in our local communities, and as a country, to eradicate hunger for good?

About the guests in this episode:

Barbie Izquierdo is a courageous mother who uses her story to raise awareness and help make substantial legislative changes regarding food insecurity and poverty. Born and raised in North Philadelphia, her family experienced food insecurity firsthand which ignited her desparation for change and passion to take ation! As a result, Barbie has been a community activist and advocate for the past 13 years attempting to end the cycle. As featured in the documentary, “A Place at the Table,” Barbie is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and expert on hunger and poverty, who uses her lived experience and advocacy skills to serve as a catalyst for equity through policy change.

Emilio Tavarez is a Dominican immigrant, a social worker, and an award-winning policy advocate fighting to end hunger in the United States of America. Since arriving in NYC as a ten-year-old undocumented immigrant, Emilio worked hard to earn his psychology and social work degrees through CUNY while developing a deep passion and conviction to fight systems, and symptoms, of oppression. His areas of expertise include policy analysis and development, group facilitation, and workforce development, all of which he developed while working at prominent NYC agencies in like The LGBT Center, Part of the Solution (POTS), and the Public Advocate’s Office. Throughout his career he has developed cultural competence for working with a wide variety of marginalized communities: LGBTQ+ people, immigrant families, senior citizens, people formerly incarcerated, and individuals facing mental illness, substance abuse, and intimate partner violence. Emilio was featured by the Hunter College Food Policy Center in their publication, 40 Under 40: The Rising Stars in NYC Food Policy (Class of 2020), and currently serves as the Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Research at Hunger Free America.

Mia Hubbard is the vice president of programs at MAZON. She provides leadership and direction for MAZON’s advocacy, grantmaking, and strategic program efforts to reduce and eliminate hunger and expand low-income communities’ access to healthy food in the United States and Israel. Since Mia joined the organization in 1993, MAZON has established itself as a leading advocate, funder and capacity builder in the field of hunger as well as a critical source of expertise, leadership and inspiration for advocacy and public policy solutions to hunger. Mia has served on several boards of directors, including most recently as the international program committee chair for an international association of food and nutrition programs serving people living with HIV/AIDS. Mia holds an M.A. in International Relations and Public Policy from the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University.

Hello, and welcome to CLEAR Finance Chat, a podcast by the Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research about financial wellbeing for the LGBTQ community and advancing economic justice for LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities. I’m your host Spencer Watson.

In this third episode about hunger, we’re wrapping up our discussion with anti-hunger advocates from around the country to talk about solutions to the problem of food insecurity. In this episode, we ask our group of nonprofit experts: What policies and actions are working in addressing food insecurity? What doesn’t work? And what are the most effective steps we can take in our local communities, and as a country, to eradicate hunger for good?

If you haven’t already listened to our last two episodes about hunger and how it affects folks in the LGBTQ community, as well as gaps in the public safety net for LGBTQ people living with hunger, you may want to go back and give those episodes a listen first to learn more about the problem of food insecurity.

Lets take a moment to once more re-introduce the voices of the three anti-hunger experts we’ll be hearing from in the next 45 minutes:

This is Mia:

My name is Mia Hubbard, I use she/her pronouns, and I am the Vice President of Programs at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

This is Emilio:

My name is Emilio Tavarez, I use he and him, and I am the Director of Advocacy and Policy for Hunger-Free America.

And this is Barbie:

My name is Barbie Izquierdo, I use she/her pronouns, and I am the Community Empowerment Manager at Hunger Free America

As we’ve talked about in our last few episodes the issue of hunger has many facets, even though the experience of hunger is something we can all understand and empathize with. The economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has really called America’s attention to the financial, housing, and food insecurity that many people in our communities were already living with. The massive response on the part of Federal, State and local governments—as well as communities and nonprofits—in order to counter the surge in folks who are out-of-work, behind in their bills, at risk of eviction, and hungry has presented a lot of ideas about how we can work together to ensure every person is able to get enough food to feed themselves and their family during this crisis. Here’s how Mia from MAZON described for the magnitude of the impact that COVID has had food insecurity, and some of the solutions have been most effective during the pandemic to help folks in need:

Huge. It’s been a huge impact. I think it’s important to remember that even before the pandemic there were 40 million people in this country who faced food insecurity—that’s nearly one in eight. So that number has doubled to reach 80 million during the pandemic. So COVID has clearly provoked a surge in food insecurity to a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression. And so it’s had a devastating impact on people who already experience food insecurity, and it’s affected new segments of our community as people have lost their jobs. And of course, it is no surprise that those impacts have been disproportionately felt by communities of color. It’s been a serious issue.

And I think all of us will remember the shocking pictures in those early weeks and months of just the images of cars just miles long with thousands of families waiting for food assistance at food banks, and volunteers feverishly working to meet that growing demand that was the result of the economic tailspin that the pandemic has put us in. But I think that visual really obscures a larger reality that is that despite the valiant efforts of food banks and food pantries and emergency food providers that it’s really important to remember the charitable food system was never set up to address the problem of hunger in this country—and it shouldn’t be expected to. It’s really there to catch folks who fall through the cracks in the safety net that’s provided by government food programs, so programs like SNAP which really are our front-line defense against hunger. 95% of the food assistance that is provided in this country comes from government food programs, and it’s really those programs that have the capacity and the reach to address this issue at the scale that is needed. So I think it’s important to remember that it’s not enough to pack food bags and stock community refrigerators with free food, even though those are very vital community gap filling responses. But they are not permanent solutions.

And then I guess one other thing I wanted to add is this issue of dignity. Programs like SNAP put resources in people’s hands so they have the choice, the agency to go make their own selections in terms of their own preferences for food. And it’s very different from being handed a box of food, which may or may not have food in it that is good for your health, that is culturally appropriate, or consistent with religious beliefs or food allergies, or any other considerations. So government programs are a more responsive and more efficient way to get food to people in need. There’s been a lot of work by advocates like MAZON to really push the federal government to take actions that will provide more relief to people who are struggling and yet the rates of food insecurity are still too high in the US so there’s a lot of work to be done.

You know we have seen efforts by the federal government to expand eligibility and benefits. So for the SNAP program in particular both the Trump Administration and now even more so with the Biden Administration we have seen some policy changes that have expanded how much money folks are getting through the SNAP program, and have loosened some of the rules to those programs to make it easier for folks to get on and to stay on the program during this time. We’ve seen the same thing with school meals programs, with loosening of rules and regulations that allow school districts to be able to respond to the needs in their communities in a more flexible and responsive way. So I think one of the things that has been interesting about all of this is to see how quickly government programs can flex in times of need, in times of whether it’s a disaster or a pandemic these programs are able to respond in these kinds of situations and expand as needed. And so it has been gratifying to see that. I think as advocates who are always pushing for expansions and not always getting them it is also a reminder that those kinds of changes are possible and can be made permanent. So we’re trying to push for some of these things to endure long after the pandemic.

Expansions of the food safety net under the CARES Act, and later the American Rescue Plan, have been hugely effective in getting individuals and families access to enough nutrition to get by during the pandemic. Although local community food providers and programs have also ramped up significantly in order to meet the greater need for nutrition in their communities, as we discussed in our last episodes, these food banks, pantries, and meal boxes have significant limitations which mean they are not really a solution that will fully eradicate hunger for all people in this country. Emilio, from Hunger Free America, described for us some of the most effective changes to public food assistance programs that Federal and State governments have implemented because of the pandemic:

The Biden administration passed the American Rescue Plan and there’s a lot of good stuff in it that people need to know about, and in particular as it pertains to Hunger Free America there’s a lot of food aid within that package. So the SNAP got a 15% boost across the board, everyone who is enrolled got the max allotment that is possible whether or not they were eligible for it they just got the max so they could better survive the pandemic. Some research that I’ve seen has also pointed to a lot of LGBTQ folks that are parents.

And so one good thing that also came out of the pandemic was the pandemic EBT program that folks may have heard of. And it was essentially a new program that was established last year to give households the equivalent of what school meals would have been, you know those meals that they missed out on. The pandemic EBT or PEBT program would be a debit card that would have the equivalent money for them to use. So if you had a child enrolled in public school you just got a card in the mail in many states. Every state had a different plan on how to implement it so that’s where some of the challenges come in where some states were more proactive and easier to use and some states may be required an application or additional steps before being able to access those benefits.

So one thing that’s been working is giving people more assistance. I know there’s a lot of community-driven efforts like mutual aid groups that are running community fridges in areas that may not have a food pantry or soup kitchen. And so I think that’s been working right? Because they continue to help each other out and I love to see the community involvement, but what I would like to see is helping each other enroll in some of these benefits that I’m talking about because I don’t think that there is enough awareness about them.

Helping folks who are eligible for public benefits actually get the benefits that they are entitled to can be one powerful way that you as an individual can take action right in your own community to help end hunger. As we talked about in our previous episodes stigma and shame associated with hunger and public assistance, and confusion about where and how to apply for can deter those who need help from getting it.

But as they say: Knowledge is power. Getting informed yourself and educating others in your community about their eligibility for public benefits can help dispel myths about public assistance, and help people get the benefits that they deserve. Emilio shared the following tips with us for those of us who want to help folks in our communities who are hungry enroll in benefits:

If anybody is interested in learning more about this, I’ve been developing a benefits pre-screening training to help bridge that gap and bust some of those myths down. Because for example like, volunteers at community fridges or food pantries and soup kitchens—they already have trust with the people so they are the best person to answer some of these basic questions and to demystify the programs. So a few of the things I would want to demystify right now is that sometimes people will say “Well, I am not..” again like the worthy conversation, “There are people worse off than I am so I shouldn’t get help. If I am applying to get SNAP that’s taking it away from someone who needs it more.” That kind of rationale. That’s actually not helpful because SNAP is an entitlement and what that means is that it expands with need. And so anybody who can prove they are eligible based on the income guidelines will get the benefit. There is no, “Oh I’m taking it away from someone” No, it’s like you’re both eligible. You both get it. And anybody else who is eligible will also get it. There is no cap. There is no running out. And in fact, there is actually reimbursement mechanisms that generate money to the state and localities that do outreach for these benefits. The Federal government is also giving them money on top of that. The benefits are paid for by the federal government so rather than giving money from your own pocket to your neighbor, helping them get these funds is actually a better solution for everybody: You get to save your money; they’re getting more money than you could have given them anyway. So that is one big myth I would want to break away from.

Another one is that if you get benefits that’s going to come back to haunt you. There’s a lot of fear that came from the Trump Administration’s pushing of the public charge rule. And so if you don’t know the public charge rule was essentially saying—it was defeated—but it would have made it so that if you were trying to become a citizen, having enrolled in SNAP while you had your green card would have been counted against you. And what that caused a lot of people to do was proactively disenroll. So if I said like, “Oh my god, this rule is being talked about. I’m actually going to get out of the program now so when they pass that rule I won’t get affected.” And so the rule never passed, it was never implemented. It does not exist. So if you’re an immigrant, please apply. You’re totally eligible. It’s not going to come back to haunt you. They can’t bring it back. But a lot of people won’t believe me if I say that. So if you believe what I’m saying, please share it with your people. They are worthy they are eligible for assistance and it won’t come back to haunt them.

And then if I had to do one more: I think that sometimes people think it’s not worthwhile. Like getting the assistance is not—like I said, the payoff to hassle ratio may not be the best but I think that sometimes people think in blanket terms: “Oh well I’m not eligible for whatever reason, or I’m not worthy for whatever reason.” But there’s actually a program for everybody, whether it’s SNAP, whether it’s WIC, whether it’s the school meal distribution I mentioned, whether it’s pandemic EBT which is specific to parents. I want people to walk away from this conversation thinking about this public benefits system that we currently have as more than just a single program. There’s a lot of programs that are also implemented at the city and state level. So you can as an advocate impact change in those programs. For example in New York City there are supplemental programs to SNAP, so you have SNAP and you buy fruits and vegetables, the city will give you two additional dollars for every dollar that you spend. So they’re supplementing the fruits and vegetables SNAP recipients can get. So you may want to look. Be more curious and look into city and state programs, in addition to the Federal programs. And then hopefully someday you can just submit one application and get all the benefits you are eligible for.

As we discussed in our last episode, even though programs like SNAP, WIC, and free and reduced school lunches are the most effective tools we have to eliminate hunger, the actual process of enrolling can be a big barrier—that in some states can entail a lot of paperwork and dealing with government offices that can also be an obstacle when they misplace or misfile an applicant’s documentation.

One big solution that States can implement in their delivery of public assistance programs that we can advocate for to fix this problem in our communities is a centralized application that allows people to apply for all the benefits that they might need and gives them a way to submit their documentation online. Barbie described for us how making the process easier, and minimizing the paperwork that applicants deal with, by using this type of application portal could really help people avoid falling between the cracks:

Fortunately, there are some states that have a centralized system, like in Pennsylvania there is Compass compass.state.pa.us. You go and you can fill out your application for SNAP on that website, that website has just a checkbox for you to also apply for CCIS which is subsidized childcare assistance, you have the free and reduced school meals program, you have health insurance, all you have to do is click that little check and that same application would apply for everything. All your documentation that you need to provide, it will let you know what documentation is specific to which program you are applying for, and it gives you this hub I believe that Compass now has an app that you can upload the documentation from your phone. However, that’s Pennsylvania. That doesn’t mean that if you go to any other state that it may be the same way. So in talking about these barriers we need to see that we need these hubs as a place where someone can go and apply for everything that they may qualify for and be able to turn in all of those documents at once to eliminate the process of how you lose people in that time of them trying to get assistance because this falls through or this paperwork isn’t in on time or that person didn’t upload it into the system. It’s just ridiculous.

Hunger Free America, for one, is working at the state and Federal level to expand the number of states who have a single application portal for benefits enrollment. Emilio described for us how they’ve been at with Congress to get more resources for states to create these types of portals, and how a single application process would be a lot better for everybody—LGBTQ people included:

So I’ve mentioned it a couple of times that our dream is really to move towards one application get as many things as you are eligible for. So we’ve worked for many years to actually get a bill in Congress to be considered, thanks to Rep. Joe Morrelle and to Sen. Gillibrand we’ve introduced the HOPE Act of 2021 I guess at this point. We introduced it last year right before the pandemic, and so that derailed a lot of the outreach and push that we were going to do. But it is an acronym and it stands for Health, Opportunity, and Personal Empowerment. And so the idea is that it would appropriate funding at the federal level so that USDA, HUD, and HHS essentially housing and social services, along with agriculture, would be able to start working together to start developing the technology that is going to be needed if we want all of these applications to be online and to be integrated.

I want to emphasize is that what we want is the applications to be integrated, you know all of these programs are additive to each other, in my opinion, right? It shouldn’t be either-or: either you get rental assistance, or you get nutrition assistance. It should be just that you get all of the above. So we’re not trying to merge the programs, we are trying to merge the applications, so when you apply they can talk to each other and say “Oh, they’re eligible for Medicaid, so we’ll take care of that. They’re eligible for SNAP, we’ll take care of that.” And the burden of verification will move from the clients to the agencies.

And so the HOPE Act like I said has been introduced in the House and the Senate, but actually, States already have the power to start this process themselves. Often what it comes down to is if all of these programs are in different departments. Let’s say that employment is in the Department of Labor, Section 8 is under Housing. There is actually like bureaucratic and administrative reasons why they won’t be able to share data, you know there are data privacy and data security concerns. But each state can already start moving towards a system where they share information across departments, where they do have a more simple unified application. Because most programs are essentially asking for the same information: what’s your monthly income? What’s your household size? What’s your immigration status? And what are your expenses? So those really are the real four categories all of the programs ask for, but right now people have to submit to each agency individually, you have to submit your documents over and over again, and who has a printer at home these days?

 So we want really whether it’s a city agency or a state agency where it starts, or whether it’s at the federal level where it starts, we really want this more holistic comprehensive approach. And we want things to be digital. Because as we know with COVID-19 like now social distancing is here to stay, I think. And that’s not to say that we are not going to meet in-person services as well, there are going to be particularly older folks who may not be as tech-savvy or people who may not have the devices to be able to access the Internet. There’s still going to be a need for in-person services, but if we had consistent broadband so even rural communities wouldn’t have to drive miles to get to the nearest social service district, that could go a long way towards making things at least a step in the right direction.

And I think that in terms of the LGBT community that such a system I think would also be easier to navigate, right? It would minimize the negative experiences that I described with caseworkers, and they might be more easily adaptable to changes in pronouns and other documentation. As we see some states embracing trans, or intersects, or gender-nonconforming communities. So I think a digital system would be more receptive to those types of changes as well.

Even though the fundamental problem with food insecurity is a material concern, it seems the biggest challenge to getting these types of solutions implemented is not really a lack of resources. The U.S. has enough resources and people power to tackle the biggest issues of our time, including ending hunger. The biggest obstacle to making these much-needed investments is a lack of motivation for policymakers, businesses, and community leaders to have the difficult political discussions that need to be had to effectively address hunger in the United States. There are reasons to be hopeful, in light of recent investments that have been made, but more is still needed. Mia described our path forward in making needed reforms this way:

You know we can really end hunger in this country in our lifetime. And it’s a political issue. And so I think we really have seen some encouraging signs and some moves in the right direction with the new administration, certainly with the American Rescue Plan which temporarily expanded the SNAP program and also made investments in some key federal assistance programs and antipoverty policies. So there’s a lot of really good possibility I think in the future.

I think that in many of the instances the changes that we see in the Rescue Plan are set to expire in September, or at some arbitrary date in the future. So we really need to see these changes made permanent or at least have them stay in place until the economy recovers, unemployment is lower, and people are back to work and able to feed themselves. So in the case of SNAP, we are going to be working to ensure the boost to SNAP benefits that was part of the Rescue Plan is made permanent, and to make sure that all demographics are able to connect to the program.

So one way is to change some of the policies that are barriers to this program, so we talked about work requirements as an unnecessary barrier. So we need to get rid of some of those policies which increase food insecurity and with a rule like that it’s basically a time limit. And so withholding food as punishment for not having a stable job—it doesn’t make moral sense, it doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make common sense. And so we will be working to make some of those kinds of changes moving forward. And I think there’s a lot of momentum and possibility for really expanding and strengthening our safety net so we can end hunger.

And in taking our steps moving forward, Barbie, at Hunger Free America, reminds us that our policies and actions should be informed by the real-world experiences of people who are living with hunger, whose lived expertise in navigating food insecurity can provide powerful insights into the most effective ways we can ensure that no one falls through the cracks:

I would love to see a Committee on Hunger, like a White House Committee on Hunger where people who are grassroots-level advocates, people who are experiencing food insecurity, that we can sit on a board or on this Committee and talk to legislators and policymakers and let them know, “You know this is what works, and this is what isn’t working.” Because as long as they continue to make decisions for us, they are not going to work, they have not worked this far. And you know it’s like when you go to a hospital and—I’ve used this before—when you go when you’re a doctor you have to do a residency, right? So someone who has studied medicine or has studied to be a doctor still needs that certain level of experience, you have to be there on the ground making the decisions learning hand and foot what it takes to do the job. And I feel like a lot of the people who are making these decisions have not been hand and foot to know what it takes to fix this issue. So if you can create a space, and we can do this and all avenues not just with food insecurity, you know if you can create a space where the people who are living with the experience that you are looking to fix or to enhance then we can definitely find the solution, because we have an insight and knowledge that you will never gain otherwise.

So what are the things that everyday people around the country can do to help end hunger in their communities? Our experts mentioned a number ways for people from all different kinds of backgrounds and experiences to take action and get involved to support their communities and the movement to eliminate hunger nationwide.

Volunteering your time to work with an organization that is working to end hunger can be a powerful way to contribute. Volunteering with organizations to distribute food directly to those in need can be one way to have an impact for folks in your local community. Emilio also mentioned how folks can work with organizations to organize politically in their communities to use their volunteerism to advance the policy changes we need at the local, state, and Federal level to permanently end hunger:

Definitely there’s tons of ways to volunteer, we actually have a strategic volunteerism initiative where we try to match volunteers with professional skills with projects that are beyond just distributing food. Everybody can do that: students in high school can pack bags of food. But if you have skills that are like marketing or like policy advocacy or whatever the case may be we have ways for people to engage with this work using those skills in ways that could go a lot further.

I’m working with the team of volunteers to advocate for the HOPE Act you know we’ve talked to a lot of members in Congress both in the House and the Senate. And so you can learn more about the bill on our website, you can get in touch with me and I would be happy to help you get your representatives to support it. I think right now we only have three cosponsors in the House, and Sen. Gillibrand is looking for cosponsors in the Senate. So we really need a lot of help. This would really be just one step in the right direction. Because as I said it would allocate funding so that states can start developing these technologies. There might be other things that your city or state is already doing. They should take this idea and run with it.

Barbie also shared with us how those with lived expertise with food insecurity can also use their knowledge and skills to empower others who are struggling to get food assistance, to educate leaders about what steps need to be taken to address hunger within their communities, and to organize for action:

So the Food Action Board is a program that started at Hunger Free America when it was still called Hunger Free NYC. So now the food action Board is based just to New York, and we are trying to expand it on a national level but what it is is local community leaders—and that can be somebody who has self-identified as a leader, someone who is interested in that advocating on behalf of their community, or someone who is just experiencing food insecurity who has chosen to be a part of the movement. So that can mean things like sharing your story on food insecurity and how it affects you, your family, and your community—or it can be showing your support around the Farm bill and wanting to assist on that and telling people why it’s important. It can also be resource sharing: letting people know what resources are available to your specific neighborhood or area. And the peer-to-peer benefits access or sharing, that is, “I receive food stamps, now I’ve been through the process. Oh, you’re interested in food stamps? Let me tell you how you can apply. Let me show you what the process is like. Let me help guide you. Oh, you had an issue while you were applying for food stamps? Let me show you how to call a social worker and let them know that your food, your benefits were cut off and you feel that it was done unjustly, and let’s prove to them that you have your documentation.” So it’s having someone with the lived experience support and find other people that are experiencing the same thing to help each other navigate the system, help raise awareness, and to help others really try to join in the movement of eradicating hunger.

So to start a Food Action Board you can start by contacting me. You can go to hungerfreeamerica.org and you can either just type in Food Action Board and get more information about what it’s like right there on the website. But I personally am the contact person, so you can email me and let me know, say, “Hey you know I’m a part of this organization that wants to start a Food Action Board,” or “Hey, I think my neighborhood would really benefit from a Food Action Board.” And we will then start to figure out who do we need to get involved? How can we support you? Are there grants we can apply for together to start this Food Action Board? So it would all start by contacting me, and I can connect you with Emilio, who is my supervisor. Right now since we have been mainly working on the manual and trying to make sure we build partners we haven’t really been recruiting on a one-on-one level of finding Food Action Board members, but it is a place we are moving towards so absolutely if there is anyone who is interested you can definitely reach out to me and I can provide more information, we can talk about how you can get involved, and definitely have more people join in on this movement.

And of course, everyone who wants to see meaningful changes made at the local, state, or federal level to address hunger can find some time to educate themselves about the issue, and call their representatives, or write a letter, that expresses support for improvements and investments in public food assistance. Mia shared with us the importance of making your voice heard by policymakers and some resources that can help you get started:

I would urge everyone listening to take action and to contact lawmakers in support of food assistance programs. You know our country’s failure to address hunger is overwhelmingly due to a lack of public and political will. So if folks go to our website, it’s mazon.org, we have lots of resources there for folks to learn more about the issue and how to take action. And I think if folks can learn more we really are going to be able to break down some of these harmful narratives and stigmas around the issue of hunger and hopefully move forward to build a world that we wish it to be: which is one that protects people dignity and ensures that no one goes hungry in a land of plenty.

Likewise, Barbie agreed on the importance of everyone taking time to contact local, state, and national policymakers, and she shared with us the following tips for getting involved and contacting your representatives

I would say that there’s always somewhere you can volunteer and that volunteering is definitely important, but it’s not the only way, so I would definitely say that if you are moved to volunteer and you think it may be safe in your neighborhood then contact your local food banks or your local food pantries and see if there’s any way that you can either dedicate some of your time or some of your food. But we know that these sorts of things don’t end hunger, they help the issue but they don’t end hunger. So, if you want to be more towards, “What can I do to end hunger?” it takes a lot more of getting involved in this political realm, right?

So that means that you can pick up a phone and you can call your district representative or your local council member or your mayor’s office, whoever and whatever the position of power. You can get on the phone and let them know and say, “Hey, listen I hear there may be cuts made to the SNAP program, I don’t think that’s a smart decision, and here’s why.” The good thing about that is that the scripts needed to relay this information are Google-able, you can definitely just write on Google “What to say to a congressperson if I don’t agree with their decision.” And it can definitely give you an outline of what to say.

Now why calling is so important: One day while I was lobbying in Washington, DC, I was told by one of the staffers while waiting for a meeting that for every one phone call that a state representative receives from their constituents they estimate that to be about, I don’t remember if it was like 400 or 4000 of their members, I want to say 400 because it’s more realistic. So if you think about that, if you think about that and say that one voice equals 400 then that means that we don’t need a whole bunch of calls for them to get our point but it means we need that one.

And a lot of times people don’t think that their voice matters or that it’s pointless and no one’s going to listen to these messages but what we have to acknowledge is that we have to do our due diligence in letting them know that these things aren’t working. Or letting them know that “Hey you don’t agree with them stopping food insecurity, then hey I’m just not going to vote for you.” Because what they ultimately want? They want votes.

So let the people in power no that are making these decisions know what you think, because your voice matters. And again, I would occur that in all realms, not just with food insecurity: criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, all of it. If there’s anything that your representative where you live doesn’t support that affects your family, speak up. And the good thing about making these phone calls is that if you’re a little shy they don’t see you face: so it’s okay, they won’t know who you are. So it’s okay. And if you are feeling a little shy, get a group of friends, sit in the room together or run it down, “Hey I’m Stephanie, I’m Jessica, I’m Barbara, I’m Jonathan, I’m José, and we are all calling because we don’t agree with this.”

That’s it for this episode of CLEAR Finance Chat.  Thanks for listening.

In our next episode, we will be talking with national organizers advocating for the wellbeing of sex-workers about how sex workers and professionals in adult-oriented businesses can find themselves excluded from financial services by banks, online payment providers like PayPal and Venmo, and other financial institutions. I hope you will join us.

If you or someone you know are experiencing hunger help is available. Some resources you can include:

  1. The Anti-Hunger Hotline at: 1-866-3-HUNGRY or text 9777 to be connected to the closest food resource to you
  2. You can find the closest food bank or food pantry to you online at: findfood.hungerfreeamerica.org
  3. You can also a nationwide directory of food banks online at: feedingamerica.org

If you are interested in taking action to end hunger in your community or around the country, you can learn more about ways to get involved online at hungerfreeamerica.org and at mazon.org (that is M-A-Z-O-N-.org)

Special thanks to our guests this week, Emilio Tavarez and Barbie Izquierdo from Hunger-Free America, and Mia Hubbard from MAZON.

The theme music for CLEAR Finance Chat is “The Human I Am” by This Good Robot—arranged  and performed on piano by Andrew Sclafani.