Food Bankers Hit the Road, Advocating for our Hungry Neighbors

At North Texas Food Bank, we will always ensure that the voices of our clients and partner agencies are heard by elected officials. For anyone who has visited our enormous warehouse, seen our trucks all over the roads, and volunteered at our various program sites, it’s shocking to find out we are not the largest provider of food to those in need.  The truth is…you are. To put it in perspective, for every 1 bag of groceries the North Texas Food Bank provides, tax-payer funded government nutrition programs provide 19 more. 

A few years ago, the North Texas Food Bank took a bold step forward. We created an advocacy and government relations program that serves to protect nutrition programs by educating our elected officials and community to their importance. These programs come with an alphabet soup of acronyms and a laundry list of complicated qualification policies. This confusion can easily allow the programs and the people they serve to be attacked by urban legends and myths. For this reason,  the North Texas Food Bank and our supporters recently filled the halls of our Capitols in Austin, TX and Washington, DC to support and defend the people and the program that fight hunger each day. . 

On Tuesday February 19th, 28 of our staff, board members, and community partners joined forces with our friends from the other 21 food banks in Texas for an Anti-Hunger Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol in Austin. The weather was chilly, windy, and bleak but our spirits were high. We spoke about the significance of fresh produce and the look on children’s faces tasting fresh strawberries for the first time. We spoke to unacceptable senior hunger and how a simple administrative procedure could give thousands easier access to SNAP. We debunked myths around SNAP fraud and also showed them the role of Food Banks in times of disaster. All of this we did 41 times over, in six short hours. The 41 North Texas offices we met with were not only grateful for our perspective but were engaged and filled with questions. This year more than ever, the diversity  our Texas Legislature is expanding and has begun to match the diversity of the clients and communities we serve. This progress is not lost on us or them, what a time to be Texan!  A special thank you to Greyhound for providing the wheels for this trip.

On Tuesday February 26th, we did it again. At our nation’s Capitol, NTFB marched up to Capitol Hill to ask our members of Congress to fully fund commodity programs. These federally funded programs allow the shelves of our partner agencies to be filled with nutritious American grown foods. We also asked our offices to support our state legislature and help them through decisions that impact our community during the next few months of session. Most importantly of all, we brought them the stories of those who know hunger each day, those who live with it and those who help solve it.  Hunger is not an isolated symptom. The Texas network of basic needs assistance organizations seeks to solve hunger through programming that addresses root causes.  We are so proud to be a part of this movement. 

In such divisive political times as these, we must remember that hunger is a non-partisan issue and a human right. No zip code, neighborhood or political party is immune from hunger. The on-the-ground work that we, our partner agencies, and our community partners provide is appreciated and applauded but we cannot do it alone. We must protect SNAP, USDA commodities, senior nutrition programs, after school feeding programs, school breakfast and lunch, fresh fruits and vegetable programs and so many more, otherwise the hunger gap will climb to heights that no organization could possibly combat. If you’d like to get more involved in our advocacy work, follow along on twitter @NTFBVoice or send me an email and I’ll tell you more. 

Valerie Hawthorne, PhD, Director of Government Relations 

Dr. Valerie Hawthorne is a seasoned hunger fighter, with a passion for advocating for our hungry neighbors. When she isn’t on trips to Austin or Washington D.C. discussing policy with our elected officials, she is in North Texas, representing the Food Bank through a variety of hunger coalitions, councils and speaking engagements.