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Fed Up With Hunger: Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles

 

MAZON Board Member Neil Salowitz shows Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack we're Fed Up With Hunger! (Courtesy http://givelifemeaning.org)

The USDA reports that 49 million Americans – 1 in 7 – went hungry in 2008. Nearly a million in Los Angeles face hunger every day. Fed Up? You’re not the only one.

Everyone deserves the right to eat healthy and live free of hunger. On a national level, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Obama administration strive to improve school nutrition programs, increase access to nutritious foods and eliminate childhood hunger. Here in Los Angeles, Fed Up With Hunger works to end hunger in one of the nation’s largest cities. Both share the same goal – 2015 – and Fed Up With Hunger already has an ambitious, yet attainable, Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles.

Fed Up With Hunger launches the Blueprint this Monday, November 23rd, at 8:30 a.m. at The Jewish Federation’s Goldsmith Headquarters at 6505 Wilshire Blvd. The comprehensive Blueprint is a collaboration between anti-hunger organizations across Los Angeles, and aims to bring the community together to address this hunger crisis. We hope that the success of the Blueprint to End Hunger and Fed Up With Hunger program can provide a model for other communities as well.

A core recommendation of the Blueprint is that Los Angeles County, City and LAUSD focus additional energy on hunger issues and increase coordination of services. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Councilmember Paul Koretz and School Board Member Steve Zimmer are already on board for the Blueprint’s launch, and will continue to support its vision of a city free of hunger by introducing motions in their respective branches of government. Immediately following the launch is an Anti-Hunger and Food Advocates Roundtable discussion at 9:00AM. Community leaders will discuss ideas on how to best implement the Blueprint’s anti-hunger and sustainable food goals and objectives.

RSVP to David Lee at DLee@JewishLA.org or (323) 761-8165. Download & read the Blueprint to End Hunger in Los Angeles from Fed Up With Hunger.

Fed Up with Hunger is the Jewish Federation-led partnership to end hunger in Los Angeles. The core partners in the initiative are MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and SOVA, The Community Food and Resource Program of Jewish Family Service. Learn more & get involved at http://givelifemeaning.org.

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3 Ways to Fight Hunger With Your Thanksgiving Menu

White Earth Land Recovery Project

Courtesy White Earth Land Recovery Project / Native Harvest (http://nativeharvest.com)

Thanksgiving is America’s most famous meal, a time to gather with friends & family to share love, reflections and delicious food. Every time you share a meal, you can make a difference. Here are three ways to fight hunger at your Thanksgiving table – without switching out the traditional menu!

  • White Earth Land Recovery Project, a MAZON grantee in Minnesota, works to restore sustainable farming & green wind-power at the White Earth Reservation. Statewide, they work to prevent GMO rice crops from overtaking wild rice. Traditional land practices enable local farmers to provide for their own elderly, disabled & families. Their projects are so successful that they have surplus stock of wild rice, organic coffee, fruit jellies & other crops available for sale through the Native Harvest online catalog. Purchasing organic crops keeps the community & its traditions alive. What better way to echo that first Thanksgiving than with delicious Native-grown food? Contact Native Harvest to see if they’re still taking orders & can ship yours in time.
MANNA

Courtesy MANNA (http://mannapa.org)

  • Another MAZON grantee, Philadelphia-based MANNA, makes dessert even sweeter with Pie In The Sky. The yearly fundraiser provides critical support for their programs, which deliver nourishing meals to people with acute nutritional risk. One MANNA client, Jeannine, was 80 pounds when she started receiving meals, due to HIV & depression over the loss of her husband. MANNA helps her access proper nutrition, put on weight & provide for her family when she is too sick to cook herself. MANNA pies can be ordered online until Friday, November 20th, with pick-up locations all over Philadephia & New Jersey.
Oregon Produce

Courtesy Oregon Food Bank (http://oregonfoodbank.org)

  • If you live outside of the Philadelphia area, there are sweets of a different sort. Naumes Fruit Gifts donates a pound of fresh fruit for every gift basket sold. Produce is always in short supply at food banks, and one of their recipients is MAZON grantee Oregon Food Bank, which distributes 34 million pounds of food a year to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters & other nutrition programs throughout Orgeon. Give a gift & feed the needy!
We’d love to hear about other great hunger-fighting groups & programs. Leave a comment here, on Twitter @StopHunger, or on MAZON’s Facebook page.
And if your menu’s already set in stone (or you’ve got very picky eaters), you can always support these and other programs by donating to MAZON. We’re thankful for all you give us year-round.

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Go You Forth – Hurricane Katrina Benefit Concert Review

neshama-carlebach

At the Touro Synagogue in New Orleans on Oct. 15th, I am present to witness the amazing spirit of music transforming a social movement. The event is “Go You Forth” – a benefit concert featuring Ellis Marsalis (now in his 80s), The Green Pastures Baptist Choir (from the Bronx) and the spiritually-inspiring voice and music of Neshama Carlebach. The benefit concert supports the work of the rebuilding efforts of the St. Bernard Project and MAZON, who will direct any funds directly back to three of our current grantees: the Second Harvest Food Bank; Just the Right Attitude (a grass roots mobilizing effort for food security); and the New Orleans Food and Farm Network.

Why the timing of this concert? It coincides with the realities of the 4th Anniversary of Katrina and the destruction it left in its midst. MAZON has never walked away from its commitment to this region: we pumped in well over a million dollars immediately after Katrina to help stabilize the food and nutritional network that is still trying to recover today. I feel we are in the social fabric of this community and that Jewish and gentiles alike standing shoulder to shoulder have made amazing strides. However, over the last 2 years, another man-made disaster struck this community: the economic meltdown and the Great Recession. Jobs are scarce; the middle class is now being served on the bread lines. I heard the account of one 4 year old child from an upper class family who was taken to the Food Bank to do some volunteer work with her family, turning to her mother after the experience and saying:  “… but mom, they looked exactly like us.” How true her words ring. We are all in this together.

So, strangely enough, the benefit concert was timed just as the President made his first visit to New Orleans since taking office. He pledged to make the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast a priority, but he whisked through the city for a visit that one Louisiana congressman described as a “drive-through daiquiri summit”. The President spent a grand total of 3 hours and 45 minutes in the Crescent City. Way more time was spent, no doubt, on his failed attempt to to get the Olympic bid to come to Chicago. So next time, Mr. President, spend a little time in the hoods that never got rebuilt. Witness a surreal picture of things frozen in time: an abandoned school; a Food Bank who has lost about 1/3 of their donors who never came back. And with all this surrealism, witness the spirit of the people who make this their Alamo; like Sister Mary Lou Specha who runs a Cafe called “Reconcile”, to train at-risk youth to be waiters, food chefs, and food growers. Or spend time with Daphne Derven from the New Orleans Food and Farm Network who runs a program to turn pocket abandon sites into productive food producing sourcing for the local community. Or spend time with Natalie Jayroe who runs the Food Bank and has lead the charge to provide food to over 200 agencies in New Orleans and southern Louisiana.

But in the end, until we see government feeding its own masses, we will relish and rejoice at the charity benefits that such giving souls as Neshama, Ellis Marsalis and the Green Pastures Choir provide so that children and families can survive.

H. Eric Schockman is the President of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

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Avoiding Darfive

It is often in the absurd that poignant insights are provided.  In his new movie, Brüno, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character responds to a question regarding his social involvement:  “Darfur is old news…what about Darfive.”  He is commenting on our need to move on to what is fashionable and that human tragedies go in and out like the latest clothing designs. Painful as it might be, the suffering of the Darfuri people has not ended like an episode of a television drama. It has been a six-year long human catastrophe, and sadly there is no end in sight.

I just returned home to the Bay Area after spending 10 days in Eastern Chad, observing Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Darfuri refugee camps.  There are no Jews there, but there are millions of humans struggling to survive.  Having lived my life as a middle class American, I will never be able to communicate what life as a Darfuri refugee entails. I can only tell you what I have just seen.

I’ve seen hundreds of children under the age of six born in the camps, whose only experience of life so far is one of poverty, food rations and houses made of sheets and mud. I’ve seen women being wheeled miles back to the camps on wooden platforms over pitted roads, just hours after giving birth in an aid clinic. I’ve seen families building dirt shells around UN tents to protect themselves from ravaging heat, wind, and rain.

Since my first trip to the area in 2004, the camps now look like a village but a village without freedom, security, education or jobs. Because the people have had no choice but to live this way for so many years, things have normalized in a sense—if I can even connect such devastation and loss to anything normal.

Since 2003, four hundred thousand Darfuri people have lost their lives. Three million have lost their homes and all that a home represents.  For me, as a rabbi, there could be no better place to welcome in a new year.  Here, I am reminded of the brightness of human compassion and connection.  These are people often forgotten, living in the remotest part of the earth. They are surviving because of their resilience, their courage, and their refusal to give up hope.  Somehow they go on with minimal food, water and shelter. Their battle is not a political one; they are simply victims of ethnic cleansing, of genocide.  They wonder: Does the civilized world care? Have we been left to die?

I believe that our lives are inextricably linked. As long as we are allowing people to suffer this way, not just in Darfur, but in so many places in this world, our lives cannot really flourish.  Indeed, we can take great pride in so many human accomplishments.  Yet in terms of how human beings treat each other, perhaps all we can feel is embarrassment.

What can we  do in our own communities to help? We can first remember the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr. who wrote from his Birmingham jail cell: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we allow such cruelty to take place anywhere in the world, might we also allow it here, in our home?   We are known as Americans for being being a community with a social conscience; does that conscience only extend to our immediate local concerns?  If we can’t find ways to help, who will?

There is much that can be done. We can provide financial support and aid. We can send letters and simple reminders to let them know we care. We can educate ourselves and stay informed. We can keep the plight of the Darfuri people on the minds of our families and friends. We can urge our country’s leaders to do more.  The tragedy of Rwanda did not need to unfold as it did; we failed to put pressure on the White House to act.

Darfur has been called the first genocide of the 21st century.  What a horrific attribution with an implication that there will be others.  Are we doomed to have others?  I believe not, if we can find the courage to see that human dignity and human rights are worth our sustained support.  It is time now to end the suffering of Darfur, lest we have Darfive, six and seven.

Ultimately, it is about the world we leave our children. When our grandchildren ask us, what did you do to help the Darfuri people, will we be embarrassed or will be able to say that we did everything within our power to help.

Like many holidays, the Jewish New Year is meant to shake us to our core and to remind us of our personal responsibility to be engaged global citizens.  Nowhere on earth could this message have been more deeply felt than sitting with the Darfuri refugees.

Our ability to respond and to care is immense—limited only by our own fears and doubts.  The people of Darfur are waiting for us to be bold, imaginative and do whatever we can to help restore their lives.

Lee Bycel is Executive Director of the Redford Center, based in Berkeley, CA. The Redford Center inspires positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.  He raised $100,000 for humanitarian aid prior to his recent trip.

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Shabbat Shuvah

'Shabbat Shalom' courtesy Flickr User: _PaulS_

'Shabbat Shalom' courtesy Flickr User: _PaulS_

The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah. For many it is also considered the Shabbat of Returning, repentance, and focused prayer.  It is a special Shabbat because Jews are instructed to examine their deeds and focus their attention on how their behavior affects themselves and others.

In light of the season, this Shabbat can be a useful time to examine the genuine effort we make to improve ourselves, either in reflection of the past year or with hopes for this new year of 5770. Using the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur only for repentance and prayer would overlook one further examination: of charity.

Let this week be a time of reflection.

In Judaism our Sages have taught that G-d will forgive the sins of Israel, but what of the sins we commit against others and against humanity. Using precious time idly or neglecting those in need are considered great grievances in Judaism. A question is then posed: How can Jews ask humanity for forgiveness?

Rabbi Tarfon reminds us in the Talmud, “It is not up to you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” While problems of hunger and poverty in the United States may appear too large for one individual to solve, it is our responsibility as a community, and under Jewish commandment, to act together for positive change. When one individual feels the responsibility to act, even in the smallest ways, their work can make a difference.

Let this year be a year of action.

Please consider a contribution to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Your gift will help provide for people who are hungry while at the same time advocating to end hunger and it’s causes.

Rosalie Licht, Donor Services Associate. Rosalie can be reached at rlicht@mazon.org.

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Tweet For Child Nutrition

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 expires September 30, next week! This provides crucial funding for School Breakfast ProgramsWIC (Women Infants & Children), CACFP (Child & Adult Care Food Program) & Summer Food Service Programs. Additionally, it allows hungry children & working families easier access to existing School Lunch Programs & even Farmer’s Markets. More information about specifics can be found here.

It’s more important than ever that you express your support for H.R.1324 (House Bill) & S.934 (Senate Bill), The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009. We’ve shown you how to advocate (speak out) for hungry kids through letters, emails & phone calls andsteered you towards online petitions. Now there’s another way – Twitter.

Twitter is a perfect advocacy tool. It allows any user direct access to their representatives (more and more of whom are joining everyday – see Tweet Congress for a full list), and, with 140-character messages and grouping via hashtags (#), it’s easier for representatives and their aides to hear constituents and track support.

Here’s an example we featured on our Twitter @StopHunger yesterday:

Rep @BuckMcKeon please support H.R.1324. Child Nutrition Authorization expires next week! #hr1324

(Not to single out Rep. McKeon, but he’s a local representative & a member of the House’s Committee on Education & Labor)

Now it’s your turn:

  • Sign up for Twitter (if you haven’t already).
  • Go to Tweet Congress. Find your reps using their zip code search.
  • Address your rep directly using @
  • Ask them to support H.R.1324, The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act (if they’re in the House) or S.934, The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act (if they’re in the Senate)
  • If you have characters to spare, ask your followers to RT (retweet) or include the hashtags #hr1324 or #s934 so we can track your support.

There are currently 15 million hungry children in the United States. Tweeting your support takes a couple minutes, but means the world to them.

Thanks for all you do. For more ways to help on Twitter, follow MAZON (@StopHunger) and Twitter For Food (@HungerNoMore).

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United In Common Cause

I was in our nation’s capital recently for a series of events surrounding National Hunger Awareness Day.  The purpose of the observance is to raise consciousness about the 35 million Americans, including over 12 million kids, who face hunger in this country every day.

But the day is about more than just raising awareness.  It’s also geared toward galvanizing action – getting people motivated in their local communities to volunteer, to donate and to commit themselves to advocating on behalf of a politically powerless constituency.

There were a number of events taking place in DC, all of them incredibly inspiring.  I attended two of them, and couldn’t have been more moved by the resolve of the attendees to make a real difference on this issue.

The first event was a Jewish community gathering held at Temple Micah.  For a Monday after work, the turnout was impressive:  nearly 70 people, including rabbis, cantors and families from across the District.  We at MAZON led the planning, and we partnered with a number of prominent Jewish and other agencies:  the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC), USCJ (the Conservative Movement), the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Federation, Hillel, JCPA, American Jewish World Service and the Alliance to End Hunger.

The event itself was really wonderful.  Jodi Jacobson of AJWS led off the speakers with a look at global poverty and hunger.  She was followed by Rabbi Steve Gutow of JCPA, who focused more on the domestic picture of things.  And then I spoke about hunger in broader terms, educating the audience about what it is, why it happens and steps we can take to prevent it.

When the event ended, we all walked together to the National Cathedral on Wisconsin Ave. for an incredibly moving and motivating Interfaith Convocation on hunger.  This is the second time out for this event, and, once again, it was a tremendous success.

Geared toward uniting diverse faith communities in common cause, the gathering brought together literally thousands of people from different faith traditions:  Jews and Catholics, Muslims and Lutherans, Baptists and Episcopalians…the list goes on.  It was completely electrifying to be part of a service that showed us what we could accomplish by working in tandem, and that allowed us to envision a groundbreaking collaboration despite our many different theological, social and political points of view.

My trip to DC was an absolutely thrilling one, because it reaffirmed for me that people of faith (be it religious faith or faith in an ideal) have the power to do good – and to do it together.

– Dr. H. Eric Schockman

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