September is Hunger Action Month. Hosted by Feeding America, Hunger Action Month is, as the name suggests, a month dedicated to raising awareness about and inspiring action to end hunger in America.
Like I mentioned in my introduction blog, my AmeriCorps VISTA position exists in part to strengthen the relationship between Grow Appalachia and the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. What better way to strengthen that bond than by committing September to events, meetings, and collaborations between the two entities in an effort to end hunger in Kentucky?
This year’s Hunger Action Month theme is “Spoontember”, a social media campaign centered on raising awareness about hunger by posting “Spoon Selfies” to Twitter and Facebook, with the hashtags #HungerActionMonth, #Spoontember, #SpoonSelfie, and #FeedingAmerica. The idea is to get people to associate a universal symbol of food and eating, the spoon, to information about hunger and food insecurity in their communities. To participate, attempt to balance a spoon on your nose and either take a picture of yourself or have someone else take a picture of you. You then upload the image to your social media account with a statistic about hunger in your community.For example: “Did you know 1 in 6 households in Kentucky had difficulty at some time during the year providing food for all their members?” or “Kentucky ranks 4th for highest rate of food insecurity in the nation.” Food banks and entities in Feeding America’s network had the opportunity to order free orange utensils specifically made for these “Spoon Selfies” from utensil company Cheeky to use for their own social media accounts and Hunger Action Month events.
On September 1st, our order of Cheeky spoons arrived, and the Grow Appalachia office crew members, David Cooke, Candace Mullins, and Holly Korb posed for the first Spoon Selfies.
On September 2nd, Grow Appalachia hosted a Soil Health Workshop (led by the ever-awesome Mark Walden and Chris McKenzie). Of course, I was there to learn about soil health and cover crops like everyone else, but I also had the chance to talk about the Kentucky Association of Food Banks’ Farms to Food Banks program and to get some choice Spoon Selfies from attendants!
On September 3rd, Tamara Sandberg, the Executive Director of KAFB, and I traveled to Elizabethtown, Kentucky. We attended Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland’s Hunger Action Day. There, Tamara met with Representative Dean Schamore, pictured below, to give him an overview of the Farms to Food Banks program and thank him for the state funding appropriated for the program. While Tamara was doing the talking, I jumped into volunteering in the Backpack stuffing line, which saw over 178 volunteers throughout the day!
On September 11th, I met with David Cooke and Martina Leforce, to brainstorm the possibility of starting a mobile Summer Food Service Program in Berea. We’d hope a mobile SFSP site would have the potential to reach kids in more rural parts of Berea, to make sure they don’t go hungry over the summer while school is out.
On September 15th, Tamara Sandberg and I traveled to Frankfort for a meeting with the Summer Food Service Program State Office. There, Summer Food Service Program partners and sponsors from across Kentucky came together to discuss successes and challenges from Summer 2015 and to share ideas and strategies for Summer 2016. Although the numbers shared at this meeting weren’t completely finalized yet, what I can say for sure is that Summer Food Service Programs throughout Kentucky served over 250,000 more meals in 2015 than in 2014! Think of what a difference 250,000 more meals could mean for even more Kentucky kids next summer!
September has certainly been a busy month, and it’s not even over yet! Today, Friday the 18th, I’ll be sharing the Madison County Public Library’s booth at Berea’s 19th Annual Spoonbread Festival from 3:00pm-7:00pm taking more Spoon Selfies! And Sunday the 20th, I’ll be at Union Church’s International Day of Peace event. I’ll be set up with information about the Kentucky Association of Food Bank’s Farms to Food Banks program. I’ll also be giving out information about local food banks’ days and hours of operation, as well as the specific requirements to receive food from each. And of course, I’ll be taking more Spoon Selfies there, too!
On September 21st, David Cooke, Tamara Sandberg, and I will be traveling to Frankfort again to meet with the No Kid Hungry Kentucky Committee to create a plan of action for increasing Summer Food Service Program locations throughout Kentucky. The goal of the committee is to increase, across the board, the number of SFSP sites, SFSP sponsors, and children fed in 2016.
We’ve had a pretty jam-packed September, and I’m sure more will come up in the last few days of the month! If you’re interested in planning an event or activity for Hunger Action Month but you’re not sure where to start—it could be anything from a food drive, to a community meal, to a social media campaign—feel free to email me for ideas or help!
If you have any Spoon Selfies or Hunger Action Month success stories to share, please feel free to leave a comment below! We love hearing from the Grow Appalachia family!