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.
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.
Last week, we brought you reflections from Rabbi Lee Bycel as he embarked on a visit to a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. He returns with this letter from the Darfuri refugees to President Obama.
Guereda, Eastern Chad
Rosh Hashanah 2009
A letter to President Obama from the Darfuri refugees,
As a rabbi I sit here welcoming in the new year with Darfuri refugees, people of great courage, strength and determination. I am here to celebrate the opportunity of a new year, with people who need not just our prayers but also our actions.
I have spent the day at the Mille camp, home to 17,000 Darfuri refugees. I first came here in 2004, soon after their arrival. A few remember my visit. They all remember your visit to Mille, also in 2004. Several people showed me their picture with you and told me how happy they are that you are now president.
Mr. President, the years since your visit have taken a great toll on the people. Some of the 13 year old girls you met are now mothers. Many of the boys are now soldiers. Many refugees have died and many new ones have arrived. The UN tents which are now severely torn and ravaged reflect the lives of the refugees.
Fifty babies a month are born in the Mille camp. Six hundred a year; about three thousand since your visit. Children like Sulaman, Hassan, Sumayah and Kadidya. They have wonderful smiles and beautiful eyes. Like our children, they want security, food, water and shelter. Thanks to the US, other countries and the humanitarian community, they have the minimal amount of each in order to survive.
For them, for their parents, their daily prayer is to return to Darfur. They are innocent, good people, as you have said “victims of genocide.”
Enough is not being done. They are waiting…waiting very patiently for their nightmare to end. I have synthesized their message for you.
Remember us. Remember your time here at Mille. Remember our situation. Remember our faces. We want to go home to Darfur and live in peace. We want to rebuild our lives. Please, please Mr. President do everything in your power to help us. Too many years have gone by. We need you. We do not know what to do but have great confidence in you. Our prayers are with you and your family.
The Darfuri refugees in Mille, as communicated to Rabbi Lee Bycel on September 18, 2009.
Rabbi Lee Bycel is a MAZON board member and Executive Director of the Berkeley-based Redford Center. The Redford Center inspires positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse. For suggestions on actions you can take regarding Darfur please visit the Save Darfur Coalition.