Hunger Free Communities Summit: Bringing Local Strategies for Collective Impact to a National Forum
August 25, 2016
Erin Leonard, AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow, Alliance to End Hunger
When it comes to hunger in the United States, most people don’t realize that hunger exists in all 435 Congressional districts and in every county across the United States. In America, these diverse communities all experience hunger differently. From child hunger, senior hunger, African American hunger, Latino hunger, urban hunger, to rural hunger – there is no single cause or solution to ending hunger across the United States. The diversity of the communities that experience hunger require a diverse set of solutions, specific to the needs of different communities. Communities around the country are the most in tune with what the best approaches to ending hunger in their own backyard will be. Local stakeholders can engage and communicate with those experiencing hunger in their communities on a regular basis, to assess and address the unique challenges their community is facing as well as the unique strengths that their community possesses.
The Alliance to End Hunger provides a national platform for the work of these Hunger Free Communities (HFCs): broad-based, multi-sector coalitions that are committed to ending hunger in their localities. HFCs could be as large as states or as small as a city, and often include stakeholders from government agencies, businesses, faith groups, health service providers, educational institutions, civic associations, foundations and non-profit organizations. Successful coalitions include not only “movers and shakers,” but also concerned citizens, volunteers, and program clients and participants. The Alliance, through its HFC initiative, helps to empower local stakeholders to address hunger, while also connecting them to a larger anti-hunger movement.
Most HFCs embrace a few common approaches to solving the problem of hunger in their communities. These approaches include coordinating emergency food services, federal nutrition program outreach & enrollment assistance, political advocacy, meals for homebound or elderly, connecting the community to fresh food at community gardens or farmers market, nutrition education, and many more. One HFC, The Northwest Food Partners Network (NFPN), states that their mission is to unite organizations in order to “provide quality food, promote self-sufficiency and wellness, and build a bridge between emergency food providers and community issues.”
Their mission reflects a commitment to improving multiple facets of the local food system in order to make sure everyone in the community has access to nutritious food. NFPN aims to achieve this through connecting different types of community groups to each other and to emergency food providers. The mission of the Illinois Hunger Coalition (IHC) is to “alleviate and end hunger and the underlying causes through community organizing, advocating for progressive public policies, and public education.” This mission reflects the IHC’s commitment to advocacy and community organizing as a means to ending hunger.
While the HFCs represent a diverse array of strategies to combat hunger in their communities – they all share the common goal of ending hunger. The Alliance to End Hunger brings these groups together once a year at the Hunger Free Communities Summit so that they can share their successes and learn from each other, bringing innovative anti-hunger strategies from around the country back home. This meeting is the only national gathering of the HFC network. This year the summit will be held October 5 – 6 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The summit will present attendees with an opportunity to learn about best practices, share tools and resources, and discuss strategies for planning and implementation of programs.
Whether you are actively involved in a Hunger Free Community, looking to start one, or simply curious about ending hunger in your community, you are strongly encouraged to attend! Visit www.hungerfreecommunities.org/summit for more information about the summit and to register.