At the end of June I packed my bags and headed to DC to represent the Foodbank and the hundreds of thousands of people we serve everyday. This was my second trip to DC as the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s Advocacy Coordinator, a position that was created in early 2014. Food banks around the US are stepping up their advocacy presence as we prepare to take our role in fighting hunger to the next level.
We work continuously with our partner, Feeding America, to connect with legislators and influence legislation that will directly impact the people we serve. As many of our friends know, the Foodbank covers 26 counties in Missouri and Illinois, which emcompasses 12 Members of Congress in DC. For my July 1, 2015 visit I was fortunate to meet with a total of eight staff members specializing in Agriculture legislation.
The day was packed with visits to both Senator McCaskill and Blunt’s offices (MO), as well as both Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk. Rounding out the day I met with staff from Representatives Clay (MO-1), Davis (IL-13), Smith (MO-8) and Bost (IL-12).
Our asks were simple:
1) Support a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization that allows increased access to summer feeding programs for thousands of kids who are currently missing out on healthy, nutritious foods during the summer.
2) Make the America Gives More Act permanent, allowing small farmers, small businesses and restaurants to donate products, especially produce to the Foodbank.
The visits went great and the support for the upcoming CNR was very strong. Senator Durbin and Senator Kirk are very involved in the current process and will be working with our office over the next month to gather personal stories and information that will encourage change. Representative Bost and Davis have direct impact in their District where the Foodbank is currently sponsoring summer feeding sites. Representatives Clay and Smith were very understanding and shocked to see evidence that their district’s children are struggling and more flexible options for reaching kids are needed. And both Senators of Missouri, McCaskill and Blunt, were very receptive of information in Missouri and our desperate need for more summer feeding sites in rural areas.
We feel confident and lucky that information regarding the CNR was received so well and look forward to action on the Hill over the next few weeks – but we can’t stop now! The goal of food banks around the US is to bring awareness to the issue of hunger and how that directly affects people in our Member’s districts. Although I have the ability to travel to DC and meet with Members of Congress and their staff, it is truly the voice of their constituents that makes the largest impact.
I, along with advocacy coordinators around the US, have planted the seed, but now we need you to bring that message home. I strongly encourage you to contact your Members of Congress and remind them that children are the future and it is our duty to make sure they are taken care of and fully equipped for that future. Feeding children may seem simple enough, but the long-term impact it has is crucial.
Please take a moment to contact your Member of Congress regarding the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
Michelle Knight, Advocacy Coordinator