November 2018
The Power of Narrative Change: From Charity to Social Justice

The Nourishing Change newsletter is a forum for sharing information and resources to enrich our conversations and efforts to organize for the most basic of human rights - the right to food. The content of these newsletters will seek to illuminate the conditions that, when all are realized, define the right to food: food that is accessible both physically and economically; food that is adequate for optimal health and nutrition; food that is available through means that promote self-determination and dignity; and food that is sustainably produced and consumed and promotes the health and well-being of the environment.
Why the framing of this newsletter around the "right to food?" Charitable programs combined with government food assistance cannot accomplish the goals of ending hunger and food insecurity. WhyHunger believes that it is time to reframe the narrative on what it will take to end hunger in the United States and to deepen our understanding by supporting efforts that address the root causes of hunger, such as racism, falling real wages, and rising inequality in income and assets. The conversations and shared learning that will shift strategic actions must incorporate the people at the front lines of hunger and food insecurity in their design and implementation. The Nourishing Change newsletter is but one seed in this emerging landscape of a just and robust people-centered future.
In this issue of the Nourishing Change newsletter, we are discussing the dominant narrative around hunger and specifically discussing what are the forces that create, enforce and perpetuate a dominant narrative.
In the first newsletter this year, we discussed the power of narrative change. We stated: "At its core narrative change is about storytelling. But a narrative is more than just a story. More precisely, it is the retelling of a story or a set of stories, characters and plot twists that shape our collective understanding of how the world works. These stories, and who controls them, have the power to justify and maintain the status quo, and the power to create possibility and pave the way for change. Narrative is one of the most powerful ways that history is shaped because it relies on the teller and the choices she or he makes about what to leave out, what to emphasize, and for what purpose. The power of narrative has never been as clearly illustrated as it is in the current political climate. When we analyze this political and cultural moment, it is easy to see the strategies behind the stories being told when we pay close attention to the cast of characters.  Who is being cast as the hero, the villain and the victim? What message is communicated by the choice in casting?  When we begin to ask these questions, it becomes clear how a given narrative is being framed to influence and shape our collective understanding of the world and how things are supposed to operate. The "dominant" narrative is one that is told and repeated by the dominant culture, creating cultural norms and reinforcing existing systems and structures. But what about the stories of those who are ignored or erased because they go against that status quo? How could we shift the dominate narrative by amplifying their voices and experiences, by telling those stories? How could policies, strategies and behaviors shift if an alternative narrative was crafted?"
Partner Talk: Dismantling Dominant Narratives Around Hunger

We spoke with two of our partners, Steven Deheeger, Senior Program Manager at City Harvest and Rae Gomes, the Food Justice Coordinator at the Brooklyn Neighborhood Health Action, about what dominant narrative they wish they could dismantle and what are alternative narratives they'd like to see more of.

A Conversation with Steven Deheeger, Senior Program Manager at City Harvest

1)   What's the dominant narrative about hunger that you wish you could dismantle?

T hat hunger can and should be understood and approached on an individual level.  Thanks to the myths of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and rugged individualism, lots of dominant narratives in the United States focus primarily, if not exclusively, on individuals. Our dominant narratives about hunger often lead with the number of people who are "hungry" rather than addressing which communities are most disproportionately impacted and why. Narratives that don't ask "why?" invisibilize (and effectively perpetuate) the very systems of oppression that cause hunger in the first place. Queer and trans Black women disproportionately face the highest rates of food insecurity in New York - we need to do a better job of uplifting narratives that center how systemic transphobia, anti-Black racism, and capitalism are systemic root causes of hunger.

2)   What's an alternative narrative you'd like to see more of?

I think the narratives are out there, it's just that we, as nonprofit organizations, need to better about lifting them up. Instead, we often whitewash them - pun intended. The Black Youth Project 100 has a Black Queer Feminist Lens that I think we can all benefit from. Lately, I've been thinking about how organizations that are not led by people most impacted can get behind, support, resource, align with, be accountable to, and organize alongside those that are.  I'd love to see more folks trying to end hunger by centering the narratives that are already out there.

A Conversation with Rae Gomes, the Food Justice Coordinator at the Brooklyn Neighborhood Health Action, part of the Center for Health Equity in DOHMH

1)  What's the dominant narrative about hunger that you wish you could dismantle?

When examining health disparities in underserved communities, the term 'food desert' is usually invoked by advocates as a reason for food insecurity or a lack of access to healthy food in those communities. Food deserts are defined by the USDA as "low access community, [where] at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store." The framing is problematic in two ways. While access to food could simply mean distance to a grocery store, a more expanded definition would take into consideration whether the community could easily source fresh, good quality, and affordable fruits and vegetables. With the popularity of food delivery service and meal kits, access to good quality produce could be overcome, only if you could afford it. Also the USDA's definition doesn't take into consideration the availability of other food sources including community gardens, Community Supported Agriculture, and farmers markets. Secondly, the definition and resulting framing point to the lack of supermarkets as the problem. The given framework is that more supermarkets should mean more access to food. In neighborhoods considered "food deserts," supermarkets are sometimes over-priced with produce that is not good quality. Having more supermarkets in a community has not solved the food deserts, even within the accepted framing.

2) What's an alternative narrative you'd like to see more of?

We need to see that food deserts, unlike its naturalistic name suggests, isn't natural, and that food apartheid is a more fitting explanation. Food apartheid is an intentional system of inequity, whereby residents could live in the same area (a designated "food desert" for example) and have different experiences sourcing food based on their race, income, class, and resources. With a framework that only depends on distance from a food store, the solution to have more food stores has proven, throughout history, to not be successful.

Read more of their thoughts here.
Try Out these Questions for Discussion in Your Organization
  • Who benefits from the dominant narrative around hunger? How do food access organizations benefit from the dominant narrative around hunger? How does it show up in communications and fundraising and other departments?
  • The dominant narrative tends to be full of assumptions being made about poor people and who is thought to be worthy of help. What are the stories we tell ourselves? What are the stories we repeat to get funds? Ex, Single mom working hard to feed kids. How it's all about blaming poor people for being poor and then breaking down those assumptions and thoughts in this one or a future newsletter.
  • Who holds the power in the current dominant narrative in the food system? How could your organization work, internally and externally, to discuss those power dynamics and begin to break them down?
What We're Reading
" We Ranked All 50 States from Farm to Fork. Why We Bothered-and a Taste of Our Takeaways"

A statistical look  at our country's food systems through synthesis of data on farming practices, labor conditions, water quality, public health and more in all the 50 states. Some of the results are more promising than others. Read more here .

"REFRAMING FOOD HUBS Food Hubs, Racial Equity, and Self-Determination in the South"
A portrayal of food hubs of the South, namely the people of color that are seeking to ground the fight for food in racial equity. This study includes numerous interviews with farmers and leaders in the food systems community as well as innovations in the food hub industry. Read the study here.
"How Foodies Can Understand Capitalism and Farm-to-Table Justice"

An optimistic look at the role activists can have in shaping the capitalist food industry by uniting the progressive and radical wings of the food movement - everyone matters. Read more here .
"The Freedom Papers"

The Freedom Papers are a creative piece that looks at all underlying truths behind inequality, on all fronts (food, poverty, policing, etc.)  Read them  here.
"Health departments placing stronger emphasis on equity: Achieving social justice in public health"

This article identifies the social determinants of health, how housing conditions, lack of enlightened political leaders, etc. all play a role in deterring health equity. It delves into showing how an organization can do the work to shift its focus and address the root causes of health inequity. Read more here .

Visionary Voices Podcast: Malik Yakini

"We're not anti-white people, and we certainly accept white allies... but we push back heavily against this notion that white people, or any other ethnic group, should come into our communities and decide for us what should be done. We strongly believe that we both have the right and the responsibility to lead ourselves and that others who want to be helpful should follow the leadership of the people who live in the community."
-   Malik Yakini, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
In the second episode of the Food Systems Leadership Network's Visionary Voices podcast, lifelong activist, educator, and internationally-renowned food systems leader Malik Yakini speaks frankly about the insidious impact of racism in the food system and the "good food movement," provides a brilliant analysis of the relationship between white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism, and shares his vision for a food system centered around racial equity, where the monopoly on land ownership has been disrupted and everyone has the opportunity to have access to land to build greater food security in their communities. Listen to to hear how Yakini's involvement in the Black Liberation Movement led him to become one of the most respected voices on community food sovereignty, a key leader in the transformation of Detroit's food system and food policy landscape, and a fierce advocate and activist for racial justice and social change.

Listen now on and  subscribe on iTunes , Soundcloud , Stitcher , Tunein

The Visionary Voices podcast is produced by the Wallace Center's Food Systems Leadership Network, a national Community of Practice focused on strengthening the leadership, management, and organizational effectiveness of community-based, non-profit organizations using food systems as a lever for positive social change in their communities. Learn more about the Food Systems Leadership Network here.
Finding Solutions to Hunger: Kids Can Make A Difference, A Teacher Guide

Kids Can Make A Difference ® (KIDS), an educational program for middle- and high school students, focuses on the root causes of hunger and poverty, the people most affected, solutions, and how students can help. The major goal is to stimulate the students to take some definite follow-up actions as they begin to realize that one person can make a difference. The teacher guide, Finding Solutions to Hunger: Kids Can Make A Difference, has been used in middle- and high-schools, after school programs, religious schools, distance learning programs, home schools, and local food banks. It features uplifting, engaging, interactive and challenging lessons on the causes of and solutions to domestic and international hunger. It examines contemporary development projects, the role of the media, famine vs. chronic hunger, the working poor, and more, as well as valuable ideas for how young people can make a difference in their communities and in the world around them. In the hands of a creative teacher, the guide is adaptable to a range of ages. The guide is available in a download version from the website in both English and Spanish. Learn more and download the guide here.
Report Finds that More Americans, Particularly Children, are at Risk of Hunger

In every part of the nation, many households are experiencing food hardship, according to a report by the Food Research & Action Center. "How Hungry is America?" reveals that, after several years of decline, the national food hardship rate for all households increased from 15.1 percent in 2016 to 15.7 percent in 2017. The food hardship rate for households with children rose to a considerably higher level, from 17.5 percent in 2016 to 18.4 percent in 2017. Read the report to learn more here.
Report on Expanding Immigrant Access to Food Benefits in New York City

A report from the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute,  Expanding Immigrant Access to Food Benefits in New York City: Defining Roles for City and State Government , examines how the intersection of two trends-restricting immigration and cutting back food assistance-is affecting immigrants in New York City. The report, based on a survey and interviews with staff and leaders of food security and immigrants' rights organizations in New York City, provides evidence that can inform New York City and State policy initiatives to protect and restore programs and policies that respect the basic American values of feeding the hungry and welcoming immigrants. The report recommends four strategies for protecting and expanding access to public food benefits for immigrants in New York City. Read more here .
Beyond the emergency: How to evolve your food bank into a force for change

Looking to change your food bank into a force for change?

Community Food Centres Canada heard from many food banks who want to shift or augment their work to create more impact. Therefore, they developed a resource to help discuss the opportunities and challenges that arise when moving from the charity model to one informed by anti-poverty, food justice, and the social determinants of health.

This manual showcases a range of tangible ways food banks are evolving beyond emergency food provision. Many suggestions are low cost, including changing policies or procedures toward healthier food, and getting staff, volunteers, donors, and the public onside in making a shift in thinking. The chapters are framed by the Good Food Principles - a philosophy rooted in health, dignity, and equity that underpins their work at Community Food Centres. The Good Food Principles are shared values that unite the groups who have joined their Good Food Organizations initiative. Read more here.
MAZON Quick Reaction Fund

Now more than ever, MAZON recognizes the need for anti-hunger movement leaders to respond quickly to pressing issues that will disproportionally impact the lives of food insecure people. MAZON's Quick Reaction Fund (QRF) addresses this need by providing assistance for special initiatives and actions around the country that may emerge at a moment's notice and for which a targeted and strategic action will result in a meaningful response. MAZON's Quick Reaction Fund will provide one-time grants in amounts ranging from $500-$15,000. Read the eligibility criteria and more here.
Help Update the Find Food Database
WhyHunger continues to expand the comprehensive  Find Food database  of emergency food providers (food banks, food pantries, food access sites). We need your help! Please verify that your organization's profile is accurate in the database. If you need to update your record, please email:  [email protected] . If your organization is not in the database, please join us  here . And if your organization has multiple sites, we can bulk upload that information. Just contact us at [email protected] .
Making the database as comprehensive as possible is critical in making food even more accessible to those calling and texting our WhyHunger Hotline. Please consider helping us spread the word by  downloading and sharing Hotline flyers with your networks and on social media. 
Say No to Trump's "public charge" to more hunger and poverty for immigrant workers!

Imagine being asked to choose between feeding your family now or obtaining a green card later!

A new "public charge" rule proposed by the Trump administration has the potential to induce legal immigrants to forgo public benefits that they need to feed their families, secure housing and maintain their health. The result would be a rise in hunger and malnutrition, an increase in homelessness, and a decline in health, as well as a reduction in federal funds injected into the economies of New York City and jurisdictions throughout the nation. As a recent report by the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute shows, participation in food benefits to which immigrants are entitled has already been reduced in some immigrant communities due to fears of deportation that have been heightened by the Trump Administration's policies. Learn more here and find out what you can do to help!
Join the HEAL Food Alliance in "Changing the Recipe for Foodservice!"

For the past year the HEAL Food Alliance and their partners in the Community Coalition for Real Meals have been developing a new campaign to draw much needed attention to one of the largest problems facing our food and farm system today: the concentration of market and political power in the hands of a few agri-food corporations. They are launching the Real Meals Campaign. Together, they are urging the country's three largest food service management companies - Aramark, Compass Group, and Sodexo - to move their business models away from a system of exclusive relationships with big food corporations, and toward investments in food that supports workers, communities, and the environment, while investing in small-scale producers and producers of color.

Learn more here!
Join us as we work with our partners -- emergency food providers, food access organizations, community health organizations and other grassroots and national allies -- to transform the charitable response to hunger in the U.S. into a more equitable and inclusive social justice movement that recognizes nutritious food as a human right.
To share your ideas, submit articles, provide feedback, contact: Betty Fermin, [email protected]
In This Issue
Please verify that your organization's profile is accurate in the  database . To update your record, email
[email protected]. If your organization is not in the database, please join us  here.  The WhyHunger Hotline number is 1-800-5-HUNGRY. Please update your records and find outreach materials  here.   
Nourishing Change is a  space to share critical thoughts around the systemic change that needs to happen to end hunger and transform the emergency food system. 

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