Category Archives: Hunger Advocacy

A New Approach to Thanksgiving

Courtesy Flickr user riptheskull (http://flickr.com/photos/vintagehalloweencollector/)

A few days ago, I read the devastating news — 49 million Americans are food insecure and live on the edge of hunger.  One in four children don’t know when and where they will have their next meal. Over a year ago, as our economy began to slide and we entered a recession, the face of hunger changed dramatically — now, it may pain your neighbor who lives next door or your colleague in an office down the hall.

These past months, individuals have had to make the decision between paying bills or putting food on the table.  No one should ever have to make this decision.  Food and shelter are basic necessities that everyone should be able to access.

This Thanksgiving, I will be sitting at a beautiful table, surrounded by family, enjoying delicious food and festivity.  Although I give thanks for all that I have had in my life, how can I sit at my Thanksgiving meal knowing how many in this country are going to bed with an empty stomach?

Let’s show how thankful we are for what we have by helping make a difference. I encourage you to join me in starting a new Thanksgiving tradition at your holiday table. As you share what you are thankful for with your family and friends, make a pledge to donate to MAZON what it would be to invite one additional person to your holiday table (like at Passover) and invite your friends and family to match your contribution.

This Thanksgiving, we can make a difference.

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Filed under Food For Thought, Hunger Advocacy

Project Elijah: Open The Door & Feed The Hungry

1257361190127_665e8It wasn’t even Passover, yet on Sunday, October 18th at West Hills, California’s Milken Jewish Community Campus, an innovative program called  “Feeding the Hungry Project” opened the doors and Project Elijah, a MAZON-funded hunger response nonprofit, walked through it.

Project Elijah’s Executive Director, Julie Kaufman and its founder, Alan Zuckert flew into town from Des Moines, Iowa, with crates of supplies and packaging equipment. With local organizers, they set up assembly lines and bag-sealing stations in the auditorium and proceeded to set the stage for a transformative experience for the hundreds of volunteers that would soon arrive.

From 10am and 2pm, two shifts of volunteers, mostly from Temple Ahavat Shalom in Northridge, California, donned bright orange t-shirts, aprons, gloves and hairnets and began to scoop, measure, package and seal a nutritious blend of grains into 4-serving bags.  Rabbi Barry Lutz blew a shofar to launch the event and as each 5000-meal milestone was achieved, he blew the shofar again to the cheers and applause of the volunteers.

The “Feeding the Hungry” project came together because Temple Ahavat Shalom member Stephanie Howard believed it was possible. It became reality with guidance from MAZON and grants from the Los Angeles Jewish Federation’s Valley Alliance and other funders.  It generated over 35,000 meals for beneficiaries of the SOVA Community Food and Resource Program, a long-time MAZON grantee, because more than 1,000,000 men, women and children in Los Angeles are at risk of hunger and SOVA’s three food pantries are among the premiere front line responders to the hunger crisis in Los Angeles.

Here are Ms. Howard’s reflections on the event:

Wow!  Four hundred volunteers + four hours = 35,000 meals for SOVA!  That’s what we can accomplish with some long-range planning, a passion to feed the hungry and a little Chutzpah.

We did it!  And we didn’t have to “reinvent the wheel.”  All we had to do was “roll in” a high-protein, vitamin-packed food product and assembly line system developed by Project Elijah in Des Moines, Iowa.  Temple Ahavat Shalom started dreaming about this one-day event years ago.  Thanks to grants from the Los Angeles Federation Valley Alliance and the Ted and Sarah Seldin Family Fund we were able to pay for the food and shipping of the equipment to package the meals.

Of course, the best part of the equation is the volunteers.  There was so much enthusiasm for Feeding the Hungry that we had to close down the sign ups weeks ahead of time when we reached our maximum of 400 volunteers. People brought their patience, passion and willingness to do a great mitzvah so we could meet our goal to help the needy.

Thanks, MAZON, for co-sponsoring Feeding the Hungry and for fighting the battle every day to draw down hunger.

She also has event photos available on Flickr.

Anyone can open the door and end hunger.  Start by opening the door to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger at www.mazon.org.

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Filed under Guest Blog, Hunger Advocacy, MAZON Grantees, Site Visits

This Thursday: Learn About LA’s New Food Policy Task Force

We have a wonderful problem at MAZON… we’ve had so many donations in honor of the High Holy Days that we’re completely swamped just trying to process them all.

These funds allow us to support organizations like Hunger Action Los Angeles, who sent us the following regarding their monthly meeting this Thursday. These meetings are a great place to brainstorm ideas & learn about steps and events by various organizations and individuals to end hunger in Los Angeles and statewide (through collaboration with the California Hunger Action Coalition).

If you can’t make the meeting or live outside of Los Angeles, there are some fantastic snippets about food waste & conservation in a major metropolis and increased food stamp access in California towards the end. Frank Tamborello of Hunger Action Los Angeles also runs a weekly e-newsletter, “To All Those Interested In Food and Justice” chock full of hunger information & news articles. Check out this week’s issue, and learn of even more ways you can help hungry Angelenos & Californians!

Take it away, Frank…

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy, Hunger Fighters, MAZON Grantees

The Carrot & The Shotgun

Courtesy Flickr user Steve Rhode (http://www.flickr.com/photos/steverhode/)

Courtesy Flickr user Steve Rhode (http://www.flickr.com/photos/steverhode/)

Recently, MAZON welcomed Bob Forney, former President & CEO of the Chicago Stock Exchange & America’s Second Harvest (now Feeding America) into our offices to share the successes of his current efforts with The Global Foodbanking Network. Founded in 2006 as a collaboration between Feeding America, Food Banks Canada, Red Argentina de Bancos de Alimentos & Associación Mexicana de Bancos de Alimentos, The Global Foodbanking Network (GFN) establishes & supports food bank networks serving over a billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger and malnourishment. Mr. Forney has personally been involved with GFN programs in Jordan (which, besides hungry Jordanians, has seen an influx of a million Iraqi refugees in recent years), Turkey, Argentina, Canada, South Africa & Israel (these last two funded by MAZON seed money).

Why food bank networks, as opposed to more localized service centers? Mr. Forney offers a real-world example from his experience working with food suppliers. If Kellogg’s has a defective batch of Rice Krispies that tastes fine but doesn’t snap, crackle & pop to perfection, they can’t ship it to grocers, but it costs them money to dispose of it themselves. If Kellogg’s were to donate it to a single organization, that group would need access to a secure warehouse, industrial equipment & staff capable of receiving, storing, sorting & distributing 300 metric tons of rice before it goes bad. Few groups can manage that, and unfortunately the Rice Krispies goes to the dump – but with a food bank network, an infrastructure exists that can meet everyone’s needs across different regions.

The problem with some well-meaning organizations, according to Forney, is their inability to break barriers & collaborate. Nobody’s mission statement requires them to work alone, and ending hunger is one of the few things all people agree on – from everyday citizens, farmers & grocers to large-scale suppliers & politicians – but long-term change can only occur with a committee of the whole.

This is where you, the donor & concerned citizen, come in. You have the carrot & the shotgun to entice and, if necessary, force organizations to work together. Without your donations of time & resources, no organization can function, but with your help, ideas & pressure, organizations can break barriers, work together & end hunger once and for all. Hunger’s greatest ally is distance – the distance between the poor & accessible food, and the distance between organizations looking to save the universe by themselves. That distance separates a billion people, and it’s our responsibility to close the gap and bring everyone back together.

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy, International Relief, Interviews, MAZON Grantees

Seizing the Moment

by H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D.
Every year at the High Holy Days, I am reminded of an old family friend whose unflagging optimism always fueled my great admiration.  “How are things going?” I would ask whenever our paths would cross, to which he would make the inevitable reply:  “Today is going to be the best day yet.”  He looked forward to every sunrise; every meal; every conversation.  Even as a young man, it struck me as a courageous and inspirational philosophy.  Seen through the lens of his recurrent illness and financial misfortune, the certainty of his pronouncement taught me a fundamental life’s lesson:  to live fully is to embrace each moment, savoring its sweetness and recognizing its transformative potential.  Put another way, we are not defined by what has already happened or by what tomorrow may bring, but by what we do today.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with their themes of renewal and redemption, make the point even more clearly.  Over the course of these holidays, we are neither held hostage to the failures of the past nor burdened by the demands of the future.  Rather, by insisting that we carve out time for serious self-reflection, they enable us to focus squarely on the present, what writer Eckhart Tolle calls the power of now.  In doing so, the High Holy Days force us to confront who we are and how we live and, in the process, to realize that our everyday actions have important implications for our community and the world around us.
It’s no wonder these days are viewed as the most significant of the Jewish calendar; their emphasis on self-awareness and empowerment can spark truly remarkable individual and social change.  This makes them not just Days of Awe, but also:
Days of Hopefulness.  What an extraordinary thing:  to be part of a tradition that tells us we have the ability, and the tools, to help heal a broken world.  Judaism does not relegate the pursuit of social justice to an idyllic hereafter, instead demanding we make it the business of the here-and-now.  As the head of a nonprofit working to end hunger, I know the solutions we seek will not come easy.  But they will come.  And they start with us, today.  They start with us letting our elected representatives know that food insecurity and healthy eating are top priorities in this recession.  And they start with renewed volunteerism to help feed those in need.
Days of Commitment.  The High Holy Days are not a vacation from responsibility; they are, on the contrary, a call to greater accountability.  With each blast of the shofar, we hear the holiday message:  Personal growth is achievable.  Our ideal society is within reach.  But these things take motivation, hard work and a willingness to take the first step.  With commitment, we can, as President Obama has pledged, end childhood hunger in America by 2015.
Days of Opportunity.  As we examine our decisions and take stock of our lives, we have a rare chance to wipe the slate clean, rededicating ourselves to a rich and meaningful existence that integrates personal fulfillment and communal needs.  It’s a new beginning, filled with infinite promise.  As the holiday liturgy says, “Hayom Harat Olam” – Today is the day of the world’s creation.
With busy schedules and hectic lives, we so seldom have a second to breathe.  We run through our days barely noticing their passage, and eagerly anticipating tomorrow.  The New Year exaggerates this tendency, tempting us to look ahead and wonder what the coming months will bring.  But as my friend understood all those years ago, living in the future simply distracts us from what is right before our eyes:  the possibility that we can make this moment the very best one yet.

by H. Eric Schockman, Ph.D.
MAZON President

Every year at the High Holy Days, I am reminded of an old family friend whose unflagging optimism always fueled my great admiration.  “How are things going?” I would ask whenever our paths would cross, to which he would make the inevitable reply:  “Today is going to be the best day yet.”  He looked forward to every sunrise; every meal; every conversation.  Even as a young man, it struck me as a courageous and inspirational philosophy.  Seen through the lens of his recurrent illness and financial misfortune, the certainty of his pronouncement taught me a fundamental life’s lesson:  to live fully is to embrace each moment, savoring its sweetness and recognizing its transformative potential.  Put another way, we are not defined by what has already happened or by what tomorrow may bring, but by what we do today.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with their themes of renewal and redemption, make the point even more clearly.  Over the course of these holidays, we are neither held hostage to the failures of the past nor burdened by the demands of the future.  Rather, by insisting that we carve out time for serious self-reflection, they enable us to focus squarely on the present, what writer Eckhart Tolle calls the power of now.  In doing so, the High Holy Days force us to confront who we are and how we live and, in the process, to realize that our everyday actions have important implications for our community and the world around us.

It’s no wonder these days are viewed as the most significant of the Jewish calendar; their emphasis on self-awareness and empowerment can spark truly remarkable individual and social change.  This makes them not just Days of Awe, but also:

Days of Hopefulness.  What an extraordinary thing:  to be part of a tradition that tells us we have the ability, and the tools, to help heal a broken world. Judaism does not relegate the pursuit of social justice to an idyllic hereafter, instead demanding we make it the business of the here-and-now.  As the head of a nonprofit working to end hunger, I know the solutions we seek will not come easy.  But they will come.  And they start with us, today.  They start with us letting our elected representatives know that food insecurity and healthy eating are top priorities in this recession.  And they start with renewed volunteerism to help feed those in need.

Days of Commitment.  The High Holy Days are not a vacation from responsibility; they are, on the contrary, a call to greater accountability.  With each blast of the shofar, we hear the holiday message:  Personal growth is achievable.  Our ideal society is within reach.  But these things take motivation, hard work and a willingness to take the first step.  With commitment, we can, as President Obama has pledged, end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

Days of Opportunity.  As we examine our decisions and take stock of our lives, we have a rare chance to wipe the slate clean, rededicating ourselves to a rich and meaningful existence that integrates personal fulfillment and communal needs.  It’s a new beginning, filled with infinite promise.  As the holiday liturgy says, “Hayom Harat Olam” – Today is the day of the world’s creation.

With busy schedules and hectic lives, we so seldom have a second to breathe.  We run through our days barely noticing their passage, and eagerly anticipating tomorrow.  The New Year exaggerates this tendency, tempting us to look ahead and wonder what the coming months will bring.  But as my friend understood all those years ago, living in the future simply distracts us from what is right before our eyes:  the possibility that we can make this moment the very best one yet.

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Filed under Food For Thought, Hunger Advocacy, MAZON News

Back to School!

The months of August and September mark the time for new beginnings.  Young children are going off to school; young adults are off to college; and we begin our “normal” routine.  As I reflect on this summer, I recall the worries of drought, concerns about the economy and the slowly increasing gas prices.  All of which continued to add pressure to the 36 million hungry Americans, including 12 million children to constantly go between proper nutrition and not being able to provide for their families.

Studies show that children who do not receive proper nutrition can face poor cognitive development, lower test scores, increased risk of illness and a number of other issues.  Yet, as we enter a new school year, there are federally funded programs available to student and their families to regulate the fluctuation of having nutritious food or not being provided with foods to sustain themselves.  One of the most important programs available to children at school is the National School Lunch Program.  The NSLP ensures that all school children receive nutritious lunches every day at school.

This September also marks the expiration of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 2004. Lawmakers must ask themselves a number of questions to understand how the Child Nutrition Program can best address the needs of the hungry and how nutritious meals can be provided to children in school on a daily basis.  The Child Nutrition Act supports a series of programs, including the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, that provide daily nutritious meals to school children in need.   Every five years, lawmakers work together to model improvements and reauthorize the federal Child Nutrition Program.

Contact your local legislators and promote the Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, and help put an END to childhood hunger.

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy

Fighting For Easier Food Stamp Access In California

The following was written by Marla Feldman, MAZON’s California Program Manager. She can be reached at mfeldman@mazon.org.

With unemployment on the rise and food pantries seeing 40% more people seeking emergency food assistance, it is critical that California moves to a semi-annual reporting system which will ease the burden on food stamp participants and allow them to continue to receive the food assistance that they need.   California is one of the last states to make this important change, as 48 other states in the country already have a semi-annual reporting system.   The California Food Policy Advocates has drafted a letter to the USDA, signed and supported by many MAZON CA grantees, to urge them to reject the extension of California’s waiver to make participants report household changes every quarter and to report with more forms than federally required.  If USDA rejects the waiver extension, the Department of Social Services will be more likely to move towards semi-annual, simplified reporting, which will increase access to this vital program.   To learn more about this important effort, please see the USDA sign-on letter attached.

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Filed under Hunger Advocacy, MAZON Grantees, MAZON News