A Voice for the Hungry and the Poor
In the spirit of my hunger awareness commitment this year, I have a thought for you:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a group of people who organized to speak on our behalf when politicians decide to go against the public’s wishes and cut funding to seriously needed programs?
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have someone other than our family and friends hear our opinions and concerns; a place to gather our voices when government chooses to over ride programs that help people meet their basic needs? And to have that place make sure our voices count?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could keep informed of the latest issues, like WIC, LIHEAP, and food stamp funding, the PA budget problems and cuts to vital social programs without sifting through tons of news, articles, and websites? What if someone could alert us when we could take action to make or prevent a change?
Wouldn’t it be inspiring if we could put our voices together and impact policies, programs and our communities?
What if someone could organize a group of people passionate about advocating for those dealing with hunger and poverty? One source created for promoting awareness and creation of resources, aid and change and for fighting to keep necessary programs?
They are Just Harvest, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit. “Founded in 1986, Just Harvest is a membership organization which promotes economic justice and works to influence public policy and to educate, empower and mobilize the citizens of our community toward the elimination of hunger and poverty.” (from the Just Harvest website)
Recently, Just Harvest joined advocates from across the country to in the fight to keep the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program from being cut by nearly $758 million as part of the recently passed federal spending bill. The organization launched a postcard and petition drive and organized visits between WIC clients and legislators. At the time of this writing(5/3/11), Just Harvest is in Harrisburg at the Rally for a Responsible Budget.
Just Harvest not only advocates for programs and funding that builds stronger communities, but also provides services that help people learn how to become self-sufficient and bring themselves out of the “system”. Many of those people, as well as those that currently receive assistance through social programs such as food stamps and welfare, are the members that advocate for just and fair policies and program.
An up and coming venture for Just Harvest is a video campaign that will allow people in our communities to share stories of difficulties getting through the county assistance offices- either with long waits, delayed paperwork, or the application process itself; feelings on requiring fingerprinting and photographing for benefits; and how receiving help makes a difference to their families.
I had the opportunity to speak with Tara Marks, co-director of Just Harvest, during the Empty Bowls dinner in March. In this video, she shares the work of Just Harvest and her own story with me.
There are a lot of political issues going on right now. The economy is still tanked. So many people have to decide whether to pay a bill, go to the doctor, buy medications, or EAT. Politicians have created a budget crisis that weighs heavily on the backs of middle and low-income families. People are losing jobs, homes, savings and hope. We have the power to make sure that people do not go to bed hungry. We have the power to ensure that programs that help people provide for their families are not just ripped away. We have the power to change the climate of societal perceptions and realize that in order to be a country where all people are believed to be created equal, we have to give an equal voice to all people. To make this a better place to live, we have to speak up for ourselves and speak out for those who may not be able to do that for themselves.
We can not sit by idle and complain about the problems government creates or turn a blind eye to the needs of our neighbors, friends and families and expect anything to change. And we don’t have to with an organization like Just Harvest. Get involved. No matter what your political affiliation, economic status, race, or religion is, understanding that when we empower our citizens to handle their basic needs, we form the building block to creating self-sustaining households for the future is the key to unlocking the equality on which our country was founded.
Simply Put- Just Harvest your voice, your power, your potential by joining the fight against hunger and poverty.