SESSION 4 TOOLKIT

 

Session 4:

Download this week's toolkit [PDF]

FOCUS: LIGHT FOR THE JOURNEY

This week, we will shine the light on agents and agencies of Change.
Let's take the next step in faith. Allowing Light to lead us to:

  • Needed policy changes
  • Productive programs that need to be brought to scale
  • Promising ideas and plans that need to be considered
  • People and connections that will make a big difference
  • Cities and countries that experience less sorrow on this issue

Wondering what you can DO to shine the light on agents and agencies of Change? Learn about People, Policies, Programs in Philadelphia.

 

People

Meet Mariana Chilton: The best way to connect with an agent of change is see what they are doing. Mariana Chilton is an assistant professor of Public Health at Drexel University, and the creator of the Witnesses to Hunger project. Through Mariana's efforts, the stories of hungry women and children in Philadelphia are being heard in Washington DC, Harrisburg, and in towns and villages all over. Mariana is a person who listens deeply to and acts boldly against the issue of hunger.

Meet Linda Samost: In 2010, Linda Samost was seized by the sudden rise in hunger in our city. After reading the series in the Philadelphia Inquirer ("A Portrait of Hunger," 10/8/10 by Alfred Lubrano), she felt moved to do something in response. A former chef, Linda started Sunday Suppers, a unique program that provides a wonderful sit-down meal for families in the Kensington section of the city. The families are seated at their own tables with table cloths and china, and served a full meal made with the freshest ingredients. But Sunday Suppers is not just about feeding people. Participants are also treated to a cooking lesson and given ingredients to take home so that they can replicate the meal.

Suppers are prepared and served every Sunday evening at the West Kensington Ministry (2140 North Hancock). Volunteers are always welcome. Click on www.sundaysuppersphilly.org for more information.

Policies

  • The Child Nutrition Act: In December 2010, Congress reauthorized the Child Nutrition Act (CNA), the major federal legislation that directs school food policy and resources. The first CNA, was signed into law on October 11, 1966 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and created as a result of the "years of cumulative successful experience" under the National School Lunch Program to help meet the nutritional needs of children. The Act is reauthorized every five years, therefore 2010 was an important time of opportunity to help shape the near-future of school food policy, particularly in light of the federal government's goal to end Childhood Hunger by 2015.

    During late 2010, City Soup advocates sent over 5000 post cards to Congress, encouraging Congress to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act. CNA supports school lunch programs as well as programs that bring farm fresh food to impoverished communities and fight childhood obesity. See the fact sheet on this critically important piece of legislation at:

    www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/12/13/president-obama-signs-healthy-hunger-free-kids-act-2010-law
    Or:
    www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/Child_Nutrition_Fact_Sheet_12_10_10.pdf

    CNA was successfully re-authorized with strong improvements to school feeding programs included, but in order to fund and implement the CNA, funding was temporarily reduced from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program).
  • SNAP Asset Test: SNAP (Food Stamps) is again being threatened with cuts. In January 2012, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania announced an "asset test" for SNAP eligibility would be introduced. Beginning in May of 2012, people will need to prove that their assets (including savings' accounts and second cars) are below $5,500 ($9,000 for seniors) in order to receive food stamp benefits. As soon as it was announced there was widespread criticism of the plan. The Interfaith Justice Coalition, which includes representatives from the Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faith traditions, has argued that this is putting an unfair burden on people just trying to survive through these hard economic times. Many seniors set aside funds for medicine and even to cover their funerals.

    Those in the hunger serving community predict this policy change will drive more people into already-overburdened soup kitchens and food pantries. And, business leaders have spoken out about their loss of revenue when there are fewer SNAP dollars to be spent.

    Political leaders such as Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack, Mayor Michael A. Nutter, former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell, and Congressman Bob Brady have argued that asset testing just doesn't make economic sense: SNAP is funded by the federal government, so the state is not saving money. In fact, the state will have to spend money to implement the new guidelines.

    Some might think that the new asset test policy might be in response to abuse of the system. But Pennsylvania has one of the lowest rates of fraud in the country — less than 1 per cent, according to the USDA. In that regard, it is unnecessary.

    All in all, tightening the eligibility for food assistance is going to hurt those who are already hurting — the elderly, the poor, those who are unemployed and trying to get back on their feet. The Pennsylvania Legislature will probably have hearings about this new policy in March and April 2012.

    What you can do: Watch for future action alerts. Subscribe to the action alerts/newsletters listed in the "Weekly Action" section below.
  • Witnesses to Hunger: For a list of the policy changes and issues identified and requested by "Witnesses to Hunger" mothers of hungry children in Philadelphia, click here.

How We Can Continue to Make a Difference: We need to lend our voices and write letters to those who can influence critical social policy changes now.

Programs

Here are several programs, two local, one national, that focus specifically on direct support to food insecure people and work to change our thinking about the effects of food on all of us:

  • Philabundance: The region's high impact food bank has published a food emergency 800 telephone number supplying urgent assistance to hungry people; established a "professional choice food cupboard," giving patrons choice over foods needed and creating sorely needed jobs for those who work in it; and is sending a traveling farmer's market "Fresh For All " into under served neighborhoods. Look as well at their training program for culinary workers, Philadelphia Community Kitchen (PCK). PCK promotes the self sufficiency of low-income women and men through a 14 week career-targeted training program. Our innovative food bank is creating "food jobs" and supplying over 25 millions pounds of food annually to those in need all over the Delaware Valley. It is Philabundance that first called the region to attention with their "Food Emergency Declaration" in February 2009.
  • SHARE: Self-Help and Resource Exchange (SHARE) is a program where people get a break on their grocery bills by exchanging volunteer time for the opportunity to buy affordable food. For each package of food purchased, they simply ask for two (2) hours of "good deed" time, whether at SHARE, other institutions in your community, or your own neighborhood. SHARE is for everyone: "If you eat, you qualify." Everyone in the community can participate. Because it is for everyone, it can help break down barriers that divide people – barriers like race, religion, social and economic classes, gender and age.
  • Let's Move, First Lady Michele Obama's Obesity Prevention Program: Although this is a national program and effort, you will note that one very important element of Let's Move was founded in Philadelphia, and was brought to national scale due to its high impact. Access to fresh food produce and better quality foods is essential for all. The Healthy Food Financing Initiative - a partnership between the U.S. Departments of Treasury, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services - will invest $400 million a year to provide innovative financing to bring grocery stores to under served areas and help places such as convenience stores and bodegas carry healthier food options. Grants will also help bring farmers markets and fresh foods into under served communities, boosting both family health and local economies. Through these initiatives and private sector engagement, the Obama Administration will work to eliminate food deserts across the country within seven years. (Check the Week 3 content and you'll see that the Philadelphia FFFI initiative under The Food Trust was the root for this new federal program. "Good for all" can be achieved through faith invested in good ideas and programs now.)
  • Check out Feast of Justice, a ministry of the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia (3101 Tyson Ave.). Founded in 1999, this program provides meals for 1500 people a month. As hunger has increased in Philadelphia, so have their services. Besides providing a meal, caring and knowledgeable volunteers also help clients apply for jobs, get help with heating bills, figure out their tax rebates, and all the necessary steps in helping people get back on their feet. In addition, they make sure each client knows that they are loved and valued for who they are. Learn more at www.feastofjustice.org.

And don't forget your weekly action items:

Point of reflection

It is important that we know how things fit together, and how we can help with a unified effort to support the policies, programs, and people who are making a difference. Bringing to scale high impact ideas/programs is the challenge. By coordinating our efforts, we can effect profound differences in the way our area and our nation view hunger. How can we make our interfaith cooperative efforts more vital, more faithful to God's interest in social justice?

Prayer for Light for the Journey

Call To Worship – responsive reading. From Bread for the World.

Leader: Let us recall that God is our light and our hope, our refuge and our strength. Let us be attentive to God's presence with us. May we listen with open minds and hearts to the Word.

Responsive Reading (Isaiah 58:6-11)
Leader: This, says Yahweh, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;
People: Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Leader: Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
People: Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
Leader: Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be healed quickly;
People: Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of Yahweh shall be your rear guard.
Leader: Then you shall call, and Yahweh will answer. You shall cry for help, and the Creator will say: Here I am!
People: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
Leader: If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted;
People: Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Leader: The Creator will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.

Download a copy of the Call to Worship prayer in Adobe Acrobat pdf or Microsoft Word format.

Suggested recipe

Black Bean Soup (pdf)


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