For the first time in the history of our Food Bank’s Advocacy Team, two of our CAP Advocates joined us at the Feeding America and Food Research and Action Center National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.
Food Bank Government and Public Affairs Manager Cassidie Carmen Bates, Strategic Partnerships Facilitator Hailey Solares and CAP Advocates Jenny Berten and Keva Dean attended the three-day conference in May, which highlighted the importance of centering lived expertise in all aspects of the policy process.
The conference was followed by a productive day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, which included meetings with all of the Congressional Representatives and Senate Reps for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s service area.
This was Hailey, Jenny and Keva’s first time advocating in-person in D.C., and they’ve shared their reflections on this experience with us:
“From the moment I stepped out of the Uber and was greeted by Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America, until I went to visit my childhood address just before boarding the plane for California, I felt like a part of a family whose mission was to serve humanity in the most foundational form. From persons with lived experience, to politicians, to those who directly serve college students in a dignified and compassionate way, to SNAP workers who talked about having to fly applications to remote towns in Alaska in order to give people to means to feed their families, I found myself in the midst of an army of hunger fighters who were inspiring and frustrated and excited and hopeful.
“Though I found that our food bank may well be one of the most cutting-edge food banks in the U.S., WE ARE NOT ALONE! I learned so much about hunger across the country and about the lobbying process and about myself. I am forever grateful to Feeding America and the Food Bank of Contra Costa Solano Speaker’s Series and CAP for giving me the opportunity to attend the Anti-Hunger Conference and to stand and speak in the place of so many whose voices may have never been heard or whose stories may have never been told.
“Food is a HUMAN RIGHT and healthy food is a HUMAN RIGHT. I will continue to fight for Food Justice.”
“On my first day of the FBCCS Speaker Series Program in 2021, I would never have imagined I would have a chance to advocate for anti-hunger policy in Washington D.C. As life would have it, the Speaker Series and CAP offered me the tools and opportunities to advocate at the intersection of health and food security on the national level. As a Nurse, I’ve always believed in the power of advocacy, whether in the form of teaching a patient how to advocate for their health needs during a hospitalization, to leading a COVID-19 Community Health Advocacy group during the pandemic where I discussed emerging vaccines, public health orders, and return to work considerations with friends who were interested in my clinical expertise.
“Fast forward two years, and I find myself in Washington D.C., attending Feeding America’s National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, on the urging and mentorship of Cassidie Carmen Bates. In Washington D.C., we are instantly immersed in days of in-depth anti-hunger conference sessions, inspirations by national leaders, stories from those with lived experience with hunger, networking, more networking and in-person advocacy work in the Senate and House offices on Capitol Hill.
“I was as excited as a kid walking down Disneyland’s Main Street, as I walked down First Street with the United States Supreme Court Building to my left, and the majestic United States Capitol Building to my right. I showed up in Washington D.C. for hunger, I had a seat at the table, and I shared how I see hunger negatively impacting college students. Our visit is at an important moment in history, as the Farm Bill is up for reauthorization in 2023. I spoke to a need to sustain SNAP benefits via passing a clean debt limit, in support of the Enhance Access To Snap (EATS) Act, and asserted how hot meals can positively impact college students experiencing food insecurity.
“This experience demonstrated to me that the in-person component of legislative advocacy on the national level is powerful. In our meetings, long-term relationships are being forged as we assert our asks based on firsthand accounts from California. I value that our legislators lean in to our personal stories, which when told, truly incite meaningful change. We ask our representatives for their insights on progress on Capitol Hill negotiations. We leave with a deeper understanding than we came with, and this will inform our advocacy work going forward in California. I am excited to one day soon return to Washington D.C. to continue my advocacy work on the national level, and I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”
“As a new advocate, the Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in D.C. opened my eyes to how crucial advocacy work is in the anti-hunger movement. I learned from so many of our partners in advocacy across the country and was inspired by the coalition of hunger fighters doing the work to end hunger. Between our different topic-specific sessions and our lobby day on Capitol Hill, I look forward to using the knowledge and inspiration I have acquired to continue the fight.”
The Food Bank would like to thank the California Association of Food Banks and Feeding America for their generous support that enabled us to attend this conference with two of our community advocates!