Recently, many of our staff attended the This is Hunger traveling exhibit organized by Mazon, a nonprofit whose goal is to end hunger among all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel. All of our staff reported that the exhibit was memorable, meaningful and one-of-a-kind! Here’s why…
The faces of hunger in America are both familiar and hidden from view, yet they are all too real and far too many. This is Hunger challenges our beliefs about who struggles in America with hunger and why, and empowers us to take action.
As you may already know, more than 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger – that’s 42.2 million people. In the Bay Area, 1 in 4 people are at risk of hunger.
Here’s the truck before the exhibit!
When we were waiting for the exhibit to start, we could read quotes from people sharing what it feels like to be hungry on the truck’s walls:
- “Worrying people are going to look at you differently because you need a little bit of help.”
- “This is feeling like you’re on a sinking ship.”
- “This is wondering how you would survive without help from the food pantry.”
- “This is choosing between medication for your sick mother and food for your child.”
- “This is working twenty-three years on Wall Street and, two years later, ending up on public assistance.”
- “This is trying to convince yourself that a bag of chips is a meal.”
Inside the truck
Once the truck doors were opened, the exhibit started and we all sat around a long rectangle table in the dark. Some people had plates, while others had none, representing the people in America who are hungry. We then started seeing the faces and hearing the voices of real people in America experiencing hunger today. What was very scary is the fact that they look like just any one, and come from all social backgrounds, age ranges, ethnicity, etc. They could very much be you or me.
Below are some of the most powerful quotes we heard:
- “I always did what I was supposed to do.”
- “I never thought this would happen to me.” (This was said by a person who was formerly making a six-figure paycheck!)
- “I eat to fill me up.” (This was said by someone now struggling with high cholesterol.)
- “We don’t eat so our baby can.”
- “I thought at 65 I’d be able to live a good life and provide for myself.”
The face of hunger is changing, and you may be surprised to see what hunger looks like today. Find out and read stories from the exhibit here.
An eye-opening exercise
My favorite part of the exhibit was the following exercise: make a healthy meal for Joaquin, a person on food stamps. The meal had to include vegetables, grains, fruits, protein and dairy. On the piece of paper above, you can see a plate with these 5 sections. We had to look over the plate at the food options and their prices. Then we had to select five items – one from each food category – and calculate the total meal cost.
I selected the cheapest option for each section (lettuce, banana, pasta, black beans, milk) and ended up with a total cost of $1.23.
Somebody on food stamps only has $1.40 to make a meal. If I hadn’t chosen the cheapest option for each category, there’s no way I could have stayed within budget.
This exercise made me realize how hard it is for somebody on food stamps not only to create a nutritious meal, but also something you would actually want to eat!
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s most effective defense against hunger. The program reaches millions of low-income households that need help putting food on the table, the majority of which are families that include children, seniors, and people with disabilities.
While the national average SNAP benefit is a modest $1.40 per person, per meal, SNAP plays a critical role in lifting millions of people -especially children- out of poverty. Research shows that improving food security through SNAP significantly improves health and other outcomes for both adults and children.
Our Donor Engagement Manager and our Community Relations Coordinator are taking a stand!
The This is Hunger‘s traveling exhibit is fantastic and eye-opening. If you have a chance, go see it – it’s free!