In May, The Nourish Network for the Right to Food held the Hunger and Health Gathering at Rutgers University that gave eight different organizations the opportunity to build relationships and create space for shared learning. Staff attended from The Campaign Against Hunger in Brooklyn, NY; Center for Food Action in Englewood, NJ; Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, NJ; God’s Love We Deliver in New York, NY, MEND in Essex County, NJ; SAPNA in Bronx, NY; Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Bloomington, IN; and WhyHunger in New York, NY. WhyHunger is working to build a community of practice to explore the intersections of hunger and health among food access organizations that are addressing food insecurity and poor health outcomes in their communities and this gathering was an important building block.







As individuals got to know each other, they were able to delve into topics and discuss the big structural issues that perpetuate hunger, such as living wage and the corporate influence on the emergency food system.  In small workshops, topics ranged from advocacy and coalition building to the lack of comprehensive health literacy that addresses the differing cultural perceptions about nutrition and body image. A deeper understanding was developed throughout the day and participants articulated their shared belief that to end hunger we have to end poverty.

H&H_2On the final day of the gathering, Elijah’s Promise organized a site visit that demonstrated how a holistic health centered approach to food insecurity is a critical step in transforming the emergency food system from one based in charity to one that is about social justice. From their work in their community garden, market, culinary school, pay-what-you-can café and the soup kitchen which offers health meals in a café style restaurant, Elijah’s Promise shows how addressing food insecurity requires addressing the whole person, understanding the quality of the food you serve and the importance of advocating healthy practices. By the end of the gathering, through the shared learning based in relationship building that these organizations were able to experience together, there was a clear call to action for continued conversation, partnership and collective action to build the movement for food justice.






WhyHunger Chapin Awards

WhyHunger Chapin Awards, from left: Brian McMorrow, WhyHunger Board Chair; Loretta Muñoz, ASCAP Assistant Vice President; Bill Ayers, WhyHunger Ambassador (WhyHunger Lifetime Achievement Award); Grace Potter, musician (ASCAP Harry Chapin Vanguard Award); Felix Cavliere, musician (ASAP Harry Chapin Legacy Award); Noreen Springstead, WhyHunger Executive Director; Seth Saltzman, ASCAP Senior Vice President. Image Credit: Diane Bondareff for WhyHunger

All good stories should begin with a dramatic scene, so it was fitting that guests of this year’s WhyHunger Chapin Awards Gala arrived at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers on June 23rd amidst peals of thunder and lightning. The stage was perfectly set for a night of singing, celebration and activism – and as the skies cleared, and the sun sank over the Hudson River, the storytelling began.

This year’s gala was a particularly significant one in WhyHunger’s history. While presenting ASCAP Harry Chapin Awards to musician activists Grace Potter (Vanguard Award) and Felix Cavaliere (Legacy Award), WhyHunger was also commemorating its own 40th anniversary.

WhyHunger Co-founder and Ambassador Bill Ayres, who passed his long-standing title of Executive Director on to Noreen Springstead in January, received the WhyHunger Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing his 40 years of leadership, activism and service. The award was presented by Springstead, Ayres’s wife Jeannine and their friend Sandy Chapin. Springstead, in her introduction, described Ayres as “a great humanitarian.” Her tribute was echoed in messages of support for Ayres from longtime WhyHunger partners Bruce Springsteen and Senator Patrick Leahy, and in a letter of recognition from President Obama.

While laughingly introducing himself as “Ambassador Bill,” and expressing pride in WhyHunger as an organization in which “what we do is not simply feed people, but rather, create situations in which people can feed themselves,” Ayres emphasized that “we have a long way to go” – and that he is certainly not retiring from the movement. Springstead, who Ayres described as “exactly the right person” to lead WhyHunger, shared his conviction, stating, “We cannot substitute charity, or volunteerism for strong food policy, a living wage, and the right to good food.” She ended her speech with a vow to strengthen WhyHunger’s fight against hunger with “a framework rooted in justice.”

Speeches by board members Jen Chapin, Seth Saltzman (Senior Vice President of ASCAP) and Loretta Muñoz (Assistant Vice President of ASCAP) echoed the organization’s commitment to movement building and reaffirmed its work to ensure nourishing food is a human right for all.

WhyHunger Chapin Awards

40 years on display: Tom Chapin and Bill Ayres celebrate WhyHunger’s History. Image Credit: Diane Bondareff for WhyHunger

WhyHunger’s story, as told on Tuesday night with an exhibit that invited guests to engage in its history and future, is one of continued growth and dedication to the mission. As Alison Cohen, WhyHunger’s Senior Director of Programs, explained, “This is a critical transitional moment in the life of WhyHunger, as Bill has moved into a different role and Noreen has taken on the leadership with a strong theory of change and a crystalized programmatic focus. Now, more than ever, it is clear that social justice is at the heart of our mission.”

With exhilarating performances by the Chapin family, Grace Potter, Felix Cavaliere and guest presenters guitar legend Warren Haynes and Paul Shaffer of The Late Show with David Letterman, the sense of energy and hope at the event was palpable. “What’s excitingto me,” said WhyHunger Board of Directors Chair Brian McMorrow, “is that the drum we’ve been beating for all these years is starting to resonate all around the world. The message we are bringing connects with a lot of people, and I’m looking forward to that. I think our message resonates loudest with young people and looking ahead, I can’t wait to do more with a younger generation.”

Enjoying the atmosphere of the evening, guest and WhyHunger supporter Lou Gordon reminisced about hearing Harry Chapin perform for an audience at Congress. “Harry was an inspiration, WhyHunger is an inspiration and Bill Ayres has continued that tradition,” Gordon said.

After dinner and a fundraising auction, the gala closed with an electrifying rendition of Harry Chapin’s ‘All My Life’s a Circle’. While audience members sang and danced along, the evening’s honorees, special guests and performers crowded together onstage, passionately proclaiming that hunger does not retire – and that the story is not over.

WhyHunger Chapin Awards

Together in song, from left: Paul Shaffer, Felix Cavaliere, Jon Cobert, Michael Mark, Tom Chapin, Jen Chapin, The Chapin Sisters. Image Credit: Diane Bondareff for WhyHunger



Santa Barbara

This spotlight is a feature in a series of the USDA Community Food Project Competitive Grant Program (CFP) completed for WhyHunger’s digital storytelling website, Community Voices, that showcases grassroots organizations and community leaders through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real view of projects that are working to alleviate food insecurity and increase communities’ access to nutritious food. We believe that telling one’s story is not only an act of reclaiming in the face of the dominant food narrative of this country, but also an affirmation that the small acts of food sovereignty happening across the country add up to a powerful, vital collective. Up today: Santa Barbara Food Bank, CA. Story and pictures by David Hanson.

Elisa had never heard of free food. That’s not why she came to America with her two young boys, age ten and twelve, from Jalisco, Mexico. She heard about jobs and opportunities for her children to be educated and move up in life. So she came into the country and made her way to the central California town of Santa Barbara.

Elisa is a strong woman – no one who isn’t could survive her journey into this country. But she is a very quiet, shy woman. She had family to stay with in the small, bedroom community of Isla Vista, CA for a short time, but she soon found a job cleaning a house in a wealthy neighborhood of Santa Barbara so she moved her children into an apartment. This was the first time she’d ever had to pay rent. Back in Jalisco, she’d lived in a family house that they owned. She was making some money here, but America can be expensive.

A friend at church told her about the monthly food bank distribution option. Bundles of produce, canned goods, dry products and dairy were distributed at the church. She said, “Gracias a Dios,” and she stretched it over a month to feed her family and save money for bills.

Old Town Goleta is a tight-knit community, mostly of Latino descent. The small, affordable homes and old apartments cluster within striking distance of the area’s jobs – agriculture to the north and service jobs in homes and hospitality to the south.

Like any small town, word spreads fast here, which can be good or bad. On the bad side, there’s a local sense that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is always lurking, and the wrong kind of word can get you or a family-member deported. So there’s mistrust and fear, especially around signing up for government programs. But there are advantages to a tight-knit, word-of-mouth community and the ground-level, extended-family-to-extended-family communication element can be a powerful tool to incite communities to organize around healthy food.

Read the full profile at Community Voices, a WhyHunger digital storytelling site showcasing voices of leaders and communities across the country on the front lines of food justice.



Calling all food pantries, soup kitchens and passionate members of the emergency food and social justice movement: Closing the Hunger Gap is hosting their inspirational Cultivating Food Justice Conference for the second time and they are offering a number of scholarships to help you attend! The deadline is in three days – so now is your time to apply.

Closing the Hunger Gap Network works to broadly engage anyone who genuinely supports community empowerment efforts involving food in low-income communities. The conference will be held September 13 -16, 2015, in Portland, Oregon and will bring together emergency food providers, food justice activists and anti-hunger advocates in a vibrant and diverse discussion of community food security. WhyHunger’s Community Partnerships Manager Suzanne Babb, who will be presenting at the conference, explained that the conference offers workshops on best practices, tips and tricks from innovative community program models and opportunity to share ideas and build relationships with different groups to build on the vision for transforming the emergency food system.

Along with Suzanne, Alison Cohen, Senior Director of Programs and Jessica Powers, Director of the Nourish Network for the Right to Food, will be facilitating the pre-conference event ‘Working Together to Transform Emergency Food’ and the open space sessions for ‘Critical Questions in Food Banking.’ Babb says the Cultivating Food Justice Conference will address food security issues at both an organizational and at an individual level -“What we can do collectively to take action; but also in the smaller open sessions, what can people do in their own communities to take action and help to dismantle the charity model.”

Individuals impacted by food insecurity and small emergency food providers are encouraged to attend, as well as everyone who participated in the 2013 conference. Three scholarships support attendees with limited funds:

  1. Registration Scholarship – pays registration fees for one person
  2. Community Partners Scholarship – pays registration fees for people who work or volunteer together
  3. Work Trade Position – pays registration fees for conference volunteers

The application deadline for scholarships is June 26, 2015. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application by July 17, 2015. Apply now!

General registration must be made by August 17, 2015.