A reflection from Audrey Immel, HIP’s Intern from the University of Washington, about her experience participating in the Hunger Action Day 2020 with the HIP Team.
In my first month on the job, I nervously went with HIP Team to Olympia for Hunger Action Day to speak with legislators. The event meeting space was a swarm of orange scarves and people from all different spheres and organizations. I was immediately calmed when experts and leaders educated us on budget requests, committees, hearings, and other words that I scribbled down to remember later. Common themes included funding for social programs like WIC, free meals in schools and prescriptions for fruits and vegetables.
The Lake City team and I eventually crammed into an office with the staff of Rep. Javier Valdez and Rep. Gerry Pollet. We shared stories and dropped those official-sounding words we had written down hours before. After 15 minutes, with smiles and thank-you’s given, we left. In thinking about Hunger Action Day later, I think we succeeded in our 15-minute task, but my biggest learning moments were the ones outside of that office.
In one of my conversations on the way to the capitol building, I talked with a dietician who prescribed fruits and vegetables to patients as part of Washington’s Fruit and Vegetable Incentive Program. The two of us examined the word of the day, “Hunger.” It is a word that evokes a feeling because everyone experiences it daily and avoids it at all costs. We all know its unpleasant gnawing and the daydreams about the next large plate of food.
But does hunger capture the entire issue? For example, this dietician told me that these prescriptions make the difference between her patients buying organic produce or not, or relieving stress about their food budget. Every story I heard throughout the day echoed this complexity of “hunger.” Someone had felt embarrassed growing up having to stand in a separate line for free lunch. Another speaker shared a story of a mom who was able to give her children a fresh peach for the very first time. I thought of my own friends who count their coffees and calculate whether they need that plate of noodles. I realized quickly that action is not just about a 15-minute meeting with a legislator. In fact, the staff informed us that because one of our bills hadn’t left committee yet, it was probably already dead. Instead, maybe Hunger Action Day is also about sharing the stories that go beyond the physical sensation of hunger, making food insecurity visible and important. Someone on our team elegantly summed up the point when he said, “if we don’t talk about it, they forget about it.”