Earlier this month, Second Harvest of the Big Bend’s Chief Executive Officer Monique Ellsworth, Chief Development Officer James McGowan, and Director of Advocacy Tobey Gable attended the 2023 Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington, DC. The Food Research and Action Center and Feeding America co-sponsored the conference. We joined our national Anti-Hunger partners to discuss policy solutions to amplify our collective efforts to combat food insecurity.
Our favorite panel sessions covered various topics, all touching on the overlapping themes of equity and how we can be better advocates for the populations we serve. Here, we share a few of our top takeaways.
Equity is essential in our efforts to combat food and nutrition insecurity. The panel, “The True Cost of Living,“ discussed how to define the actual cost of living for individuals and how this can differ from the official measure of poverty. Many of us are struggling with the increased living costs, but this has tremendously impacted populations with limited incomes, leading to more individuals needing services like ours.
Through the Feeding America network, stakeholders in the Anti-Hunger space were able to come together to discuss how other food bank networks have worked to implement policy initiatives such as “Healthy School Meals for All,” a free breakfast and lunch program for all students in K-12 schools in the states of Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Colorado. We were able to participate in panels to discuss policies that could positively impact the service area of Second Harvest of the Big Bend. In the panel, “Strategies for Ending Hunger at Colleges & Universities,” we heard from students at UC Berkeley and Georgetown University on how they have worked with their state leaders and local universities to implement programs to increase SNAP benefit enrollment for students who are food insecure. We learned that the data shows that in a survey of 167,000 college students across the country, 39% reported being food insecure in the past 30 days.
The most prominent theme of the conference was our advocacy efforts surrounding The Farm Bill, a piece of legislation that the United States Congress has to pass every five years. This legislation sets national agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policy. The most significant part of the bill deals with food assistance, such as SNAP benefits. Alongside Feeding America, we are advocating for Congress to increase food assistance to match the rising prices at grocery stores. SNAP programs are crucial to support the efforts of our food bank networks since, for eligible families, SNAP benefits can provide individuals and families with continuous access to food.
The last day of the conference was a Lobby Day, where we met with congressional delegation members, including Congresswoman Kat Cammack and staff members from the offices of Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Neal Dunn. We shared information on the programs we have at SHBB to support Floridians and advocate for the federal programs that assist our efforts and support our local farmers.
We at Second Harvest of the Big Bend are always looking for new opportunities to learn from the other food banks in our network so we can continue to serve our communities in the most effective and efficient ways.