By Dan Reyes, Coalition to End Hunger Coordinator
Every year around the start of summer, those wandering the corridors of Legislative Hall are greeted by a veritable sea of tie-dye—it’s hard to miss the Food Bank of Delaware’s Legislative Day. Staff and supporters travel to Dover to educate elected officials about the hunger crisis in our state and what FBD is doing to help, and in turn, the legislature is kind enough to pass a resolution commending our work.
In years past there has been a conspicuous absence at legislative day—those who rely upon the Food Bank of Delaware and its partners for emergency food assistance. Neighbors struggling with poverty and food insecurity are all too often left out of debates and conversations over the policies that directly impact them. The inclusion of this perspective is critical to ensuring that elected officials are working in the best interest of the constituents that they serve.
This year, when given the floor in the State Senate, our President & CEO Patricia Beebe gave only a few brief remarks, before turning the podium over to Edward Hawkins, a Dover Resident and a client of the Food Bank of Delaware. Edward, a Vietnam-era veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was widowed after the passing of his wife last August. The loss of his wife was not only emotionally taxing, but also impacted his financial stability. The SNAP cuts of 2013 proved devastating, as he described to legislators:
“Prior to those cuts my food stores ran out approximately four days before the next month’s allotment. Now it has increased to two weeks. During that period, I got the chance to experience ‘true hunger’, which caused a weight loss of 20 pounds.”
Edward found relief through FBD’s mobile pantry program, where he filled out a “story card” expressing his interest in advocacy efforts. Not long after he began working with me to prepare for Legislative Day, culminating in his eloquent and impactful remarks on June 3rd. After speaking, Edward shared, “That was tough…it’s hard to get up in front of people I don’t know and feel so exposed. I don’t like feeling pitied…but I know this is important. I hope that by doing this, it will make it possible for other people in my situation to do the same.”
For both FBD and Edward, this is only the beginning. We are in the process of developing a “Witnesses to Hunger” program, an expansion of a project of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities that seeks to engage caregivers of low-income households in participant-led advocacy efforts. Ensuring our clients can advocate for policies that will allow for greater opportunity and self-reliance is just as important to us as providing emergency food assistance.
Peace, Love, End Hunger.