2019 Summit Highlights Root Causes of Hunger & Innovations Promoting Food Security Across America

November 21, 2019

On November 7 and 8, over 150 community anti-hunger leaders and advocates from across the country gathered at the University of the District of Columbia for the 2019 Hunger Free Communities Summit.  The two-day event was the Alliance to End Hunger’s flagship conference focused on the Hunger Free Communities Network, and highlighted thought leadership, strategies, and best practices to help communities across the country increase understanding and build capacities to eliminate hunger.

Stephanie Lomibao-Parra of Bank of America, Dr. Stephanie Schollaert Uz of NASA, and Adam Lowey of Move for Hunger address Summit attendees on a panel on “Unlikely Allies.”

The 2019 Summit featured a number of keynote addresses, as well as breakout sessions that underscored critical aspects to identifying and responding to local hunger issues.  Ambassador Tony Hall of the Alliance opened with remarks on his political experience dealing with hunger issues, as well as his current role with an HFC organization in Dayton, Ohio: “In Dayton, we have found – as many of you have – that it takes a holistic effort to address hunger… While I do believe we are making progress, I am excited to continue to learn from all of you. Because as you know, the challenges we face can make our work complicated. These include issues of racial inequity, issues of housing, issues of a hungry and aging population, and much more.”

Other keynote presentations were delivered by experts from a variety of sectors. Duke Storen, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services, motivated people to act boldly and continue to build a movement to end hunger.  Marco A. Davis, President and CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute made the case that investing in Latinx education and achievement is in the best interests of the country.

Plenary panels provided attendees with diverse perspectives on challenges and opportunities facing the anti-hunger community.  One panel on “Unlikely Allies” featured three individuals – Stephanie Lomibao-Parra of Bank of America, Dr. Stephanie Schollaert Uz of NASA, and Adam Lowey of Move for Hunger – who discussed how seemingly-unrelated organizations can compliment the collective work of ending hunger.  Another plenary panel tackled the increasing threat of climate change to food security in the United States, which featured experts from host school UDC – Dr. Sabine O’Hara and Mchezaji “Che” Axum – as well as Jenny Hopkinson of the National Farmers Union.

One other key panel looked back at the 2012 documentary film A Place at the Table. Panelists included Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-2), director Lori Silverbush and her colleague Kristen Castree, advocate and subject of the film Barbie Izquierdo, and president of the Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World David Beckmann. The panel was moderated by Rebecca Middleton, Executive Director of the Alliance to End Hunger, and delved into how the advocacy space around hunger in the U.S. had changed in the past seven years, as well as what needs to be done to move us towards the elimination of hunger across the country.  The audience was moved and inspired by Barbie’s journey and personal growth.

Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-2), Kristen Castree, advocate and subject of the film Barbie Izquierdo, and president of the Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World David Beckmann join a panel discussing the 2012 film “A Place at the Table” and subsequent hunger advocacy (moderated by Alliance Executive Director, Rebecca Middleton).

The Summit contained a wide variety of breakout sessions featuring diverse concepts, strategies, and information related to hunger in America.  The sessions focused broadly on three workshop tracks: Best Practices for Increasing Community Food Security; Hunger Free Communities Skill Building; and Addressing Root Causes of Hunger.  The session topics varied widely to include racial equity, technology, housing, capacity building, generational hunger, advocacy, and more.

The Summit closed with words of appreciation for the event sponsors General Mills, Kroger, Share Our Strength, USDA, Feeding America and Bread for the World, by Minerva Delgado of the Alliance to End Hunger.  Tim McGurk of Kroger (a key sponsor of the Summit) described his company’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative, and how corporations can invigorate food security efforts across the United States.

The event concluded with an inspiring poetry reading by local poet AaronR, who won an inaugural poetry competition in 2018 hasted by Poetry X Hunger and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The poetry reading can be found here.

Praise for This Year’s Summit:

The buzz among the participants was electric.

“Well-informed and innovative presentations!”

 “Best Summit yet!”

Many left feeling motivated and empowered.  Participants expressed their appreciation for:

  • the diversity of the audience, presenters and topics;

“The breadth of the topics discussed in the panels & workshops was very comprehensive.”

“Good diversity in background of attendees.”

  • the focus on root causes of hunger, particularly racial equity;

“Addressing Root Causes of Hunger track was great, for me the most informative and clearly addressing ending hunger versus perpetuating and profiting from it.”

“I really appreciated the panels with a racial equity focus.  I felt like they really got at how we can work to end hunger, not just alleviate it.”

  • being empowered with tools and resources to take back to their communities;

“Well-informed and innovative presentations!”

“There are great new ideas.  The innovation from various organizations and businesses is very motivating.”

“I felt empowered to advocate for and educate my community around ending hunger and food insecurity.”

  • and the networking opportunities

“A smaller conference like this is beneficial to networking.  Everyone was very friendly and sharing.”

“Great, informative workshops and networking opportunities!”