WASHINGTON D.C.— The Center for Community Change hosted a partners and leaders convening to discuss strategies and to develop collective actions opposing the harmful cuts proposed in the Farm Bill, in particular H.R. 2 also known as The Conaway Farm Bill. We came from organizations across the country, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, New York. People from all over with one common objective—to continue to secure the safety net programs for ourselves and our communities. I’m Marcia Dinkins and I’m from Ohio Organizing Collaborative. My work is centered around SNAP, Medicaid, fighting the opioid crisis, and Criminal Justice.
The Convening was an engaging and lively weekend, with training on messaging, a Shark Tank style planning and presentation session. Partners and leaders presented their plans of action which were assessed and discussed by the shark tank judges who provided strong support and advice. The event that stuck with me the most was the final day of the convening. We went to Representative Conaway’s office and shared our stories with Conaway’s aides. The stories were heart wrenching, gut punching and yet so powerful.
Amy Jo Hutchinson, a single mother with a bachelor’s degree, is a college educated mom yet had to apply for food stamps. This hit close to home for me because I too am a college educated single mother of 6. I have three degrees and none of those degrees stopped me from losing everything I had due to my having to stay at home and take care of my 6 children—one of which was born premature.
Then the day of reckoning was thrusted upon me when I went to the cupboards to prepare breakfast for my family and they were bare. There was absolutely nothing in them. Crying, disheartened, feeling shame and like a failure, I mustered up the strength to go to the local Job and Family Service Office to apply for Emergency Food Stamps so that I could feed my family.
If I had to leave the decision up to Congress to determine if we would eat, we would starve. Others also shared stories about their family members, friends, and those close to them who were deceased and yet they needed to continue to put food on the table and this was only done because food stamps were available to them.
Empty plates were left at Conaway’s office to represent the empty promises that are being made in our families. We closed the convening feeling empowered and motivated for the next steps. Seft Hunter shared about his grandfather… whenever asked who his favorite was he’d reply, “The person who needed the most help.”
This lit up the room as a reminder that our favorites in this work are those who need us the most. We are reminded that this work did not end on the weekend of April 21-24 nor did it end with those of us in that room. it just began. We want to change the story from empty plates and empty promises to food for all.