Movement in the Making
By Bill Bolling, Executive Director
The Atlanta Community Food Bank
As I write this article I have just returned from Washington, D.C. where we celebrated National Hunger Awareness Day with the first-ever interfaith service at the National Cathedral. It was an exceptional gathering of national and local hunger leaders along with 37 heads of faith from every major tradition. Over 1,500 people filled the Cathedral. We came together from all over the country to celebrate our common work and challenge the status quo that allows hunger to exist at unacceptable levels across the country and the world.
During the service, children brought different types of bread to the alter, symbolically representing all the hungry people of the world. With dancers, drummers, singers, music, prayers and words of inspiration, it was an evening that for the first time represented a unified voice against hunger. Speaker after speaker urged us to create a hunger movement that demands an answer to an issue that can and must be solved in our lifetime.
As hundreds of hunger-fighters remained in Washington to lobby on Capitol Hill on the morning of June 7th, I returned to Atlanta to participate in our own interfaith service. We, along with members of Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta and local leaders of every faith, convened at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church to hear Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory deliver the keynote address.
Later in the day we continued to raise awareness before 25,000 fans at Turner Field with Atlanta Braves Pitcher John Smoltz, Publix Super Markets Vice President Bob Moore, USDA Deputy Undersecretary Kate Coler and Governor Sonny Perdue who proclaimed National Hunger Awareness Day in Georgia. Similar activities were taking place in hundreds of cities across the nation. The issues of hunger and poverty were being held up for all to see.
During the Food Bank's recent capital campaign we promised our supporters we would distribute more food, be more effective in our work and more responsive to those we serve. At the end of any capital campaign there comes that moment of truth when it's time to put our promises to work. In the seven months since we moved into the new facility, we are amazed by how well our new home is working to help us deliver those promises. We continue to receive strong affirmations from the community and we have the tools we need to move forward. As I write this, we are beginning our next five-year strategic planning process.
But new facilities, new technology, new systems, even new strategies - however well intentioned - will not, on their own, end hunger. It will take courage, hard work and - not patience, but impatience. We will have to create a discomfort with the status quo where one in five of our children lives in poverty. We need more people feeling compassion for the pain of a hungry child or the anguish of a parent who can't provide.
All faith traditions call us to feed the hungry, to take care of the health and welfare of our children. All faiths call us to personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions. As Jim Wallis from the Sojourners Community so clearly points out in his new book God's Politics, there are more calls in scripture to feed the hungry and take care of the poor than any other requirement of faith. I believe this is a personal responsibility that must be carried out by each of us in our own way.
Even as we celebrate National Hunger Awareness Day we face the possibility of major cuts in the Food Stamp program and health care for our children.
We have to ask... if the economy is doing as well as our political leaders tell us, why would we be cutting feeding and health care programs for our children? Why would we be cutting veteran's programs in the middle of a war? Why would we be cutting affordable housing programs when the need is growing?
As we continue to debate about whose responsibility it is, hungry families and children wonder where their next meal will come from. The pain and suffering of the hungry cannot be the legacy our generation leaves behind. We are a greater people than that. We have the resources - we know too much, and have come too far to declare that the job is too difficult to complete.
If we are to create a movement to end hunger, we will have to believe that it is actually possible. It will have to come from the grassroots community where all movements begin. And it will have to stand on the shoulders of society as a whole. People from all walks of life must discover the courage and find the resources to sustain the work against the cynics and hard of heart.
It will have to begin, continue and end with us.
You can contact Bill Bolling at: firstname.lastname@example.org