A Dose of Inspiration from Two Foodbank Advocates

July 26, 2022 00:42:20
A Dose of Inspiration from Two Foodbank Advocates
Just a Bite
A Dose of Inspiration from Two Foodbank Advocates
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Show Notes

Your Just a Bite host, Sarah, is joined by Kimmy LoVano, Director of Advocacy & Public Education at the Greater Cleveland Foodbank, and Tim White, Advocacy Manager at the Mid-Ohio Food Collective, to talk more about their roles at their respective organizations. Kimmy and Tim talk about why non-profit advocacy is so important, how they have overcome challenges, and what advice they would give to those who want to get involved. Tune into this episode to learn and get inspired from two amazing advocates! 

 

References: 

“Second Harvest warns food for hungry might soon be rationed as donations plummet,” by Michael Fitzpatrick, The Morning Journal 

Sign our petition supporting our statewide ARPA funding request here and find other advocacy actions here. 

Learn more about Mid-Ohio Food Collective on their website and on Twitter @mofcollective 

Learn more about Greater Cleveland Foodbank on their website and on Twitter @CleFoodbank.   

Find your local foodbank to find help, volunteer, and donate here.   

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Ohio Association of Foodbanks is aregistered 501c3nonprofitorganizationwithout party affiliationorbias.We are Ohio’s largest charitable response to hunger and our mission is to assist Ohio’s 12 Feeding America foodbanks in providing food and other resources to people in need and to pursueareas of common interest for the benefit of people in need.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:17 Hi, all welcome back to just a bite. It's Sarah here for this episode, I spoke with two outstanding advocates from two of our member food banks about their roles at their organizations. I speak with Kimmy Lovano, who is the director of advocacy and public education at the greater Cleveland food bank and Tim white, who is the advocacy manager at the mid Ohio food collective. We talk about the value of nonprofit advocacy, as well as the challenges that come with this work. They are wealth of knowledge, and I know you'll enjoy our conversation as much as I did. Hi, Kimmy. Hi Tim. Thank you both for your time today. Um, I know the listeners will really appreciate your expertise. Um, so to start us off, how, how did you both get your start in advocacy and government relations? And maybe we'll start with Tim first. Speaker 2 00:01:25 Sure. Thank you, Sarah. Uh, this is great opportunity to do this, appreciate doing it. And I think it's a very good pairing with Kimmy since we both kind of came from different avenues into this, but it really does highlight that there's not a specific pathway, but we can all end up doing something that we enjoy in something that makes a difference. And that's, I think what's really nice about what we do is we know we are making a difference in our communities as far as how I got started into advocacy, government relations. Uh, my final quarter of college, I'm sitting there thinking, Ooh, I probably shouldn't start interviewing at some point. And fortunately, a good friend of mine told me about the Ohio legislative service commission internship program, LSC internship program. I applied for, um, a friend applied for it. We both actually were accepted into it, which was amazing. Speaker 2 00:02:18 So it was something I'd not really thought about public service as a career, but I thought that sounds like a really cool opportunity working directly in the Iowa state house 13 month, uh, internship program halfway through I left and accepted a full time aid position working in the Iowa legislature and ended up about four and a half years working as a legislative aid, a committee aid and running political campaigns and realized I thoroughly enjoyed it. And then I moved out onto the other side, worked for a trade association as their communications and government relations person, public relations, media relations did a little bit of everything cuz it does all tie together and that's been my career path. I moved out, did that and I kept thinking at some point I was gonna, you know, get out into the real world. And then I realized, this is my real world. Speaker 2 00:03:08 I enjoy doing it. And so many years later I've worked multiple organizations and multiple sectors. And about a little over four years ago, uh, position, the advocacy position was open here at mid-high food collective. I had some friends who knew folks here and they said, Tim, you should really look into that. And next thing you know, we came to agreement and I've been here since, and I've gotta say it is, uh, an amazing opportunity to be able to do the work that we do and to see what we do. It's been an interesting few years here lately, but uh, it's uh, every day there is something that makes me stop and think and say, you know, it is, it's a great position to be in. So I enjoy what I'm doing. Speaker 1 00:03:51 That's awesome. Mm-hmm <affirmative> Kimmy. Do you wanna go? Speaker 3 00:03:55 Sure. Um, so I think I was one of the only students at Ohio state who did not work at the state house, uh, while they were a Buckeye. Um, I actually, uh, my roommate was, uh, uh, she ended up working at the state house for a legislator and all of my friends worked for legislators. Um, I was in international development economics at Ohio state and I was really interested in foreign policy. Uh, so that was what my career path was going to be. But the more I thought about, um, what I wanted to do after college, the more I realized that I wanted to come home and work in my own backyard. And I had learned throughout my time, uh, learning about foreign policy and grassroots efforts that the most impactful efforts are the ones that come from home and from the people who know the community best. Speaker 3 00:04:48 So I really just wanted to come home to Cleveland and, and work here. So, uh, I ended up going into research and the, the more I got into research, the more I just wanted to share what was happening on the ground with the people in our community that were going through tough situations, why they were turning to food banks. Um, and I was really fortunate. So I've been at the food bank. This will be my tenure anniversary in August, um, up here in Cleveland. So I actually started my government relations advocacy work here, and I had, um, just a truly incredible mentor. Her name was Mary Oche and she taught me everything that I know. Uh, and she, she really took me under her wing and shared her her many years, um, of advocacy work with me so that I could, um, learn more about it. And when she retired, her position opened up and I was really excited to take on this role. So, um, this'll be yeah, my 10th year at the food bank. And so my, my start was in advocacy at a food bank and I am still here in advocacy at a food bank. <laugh> Speaker 1 00:05:51 <laugh>, that's awesome. Yeah. You both have had quite unique experiences kind of, of leading you to where you are today. Um, and you both are employees of food banks who have emphasized the need to advocate for policy change and your roles at your respective organizations are really a culmination of that. Um, what is the value of direct service nonprofits getting involved in advocacy? I like to think of it as like your pitch for, um, other nonprofits to get into, um, advocacy and government relations, because I think that's, that's pretty unique, um, at both of your food banks. So Kimmy, would you like to address that first? Speaker 3 00:06:38 Sure. So I can speak to it from, I mean, I think from the perspective of a food banker and then the perspective of, uh, a health and human services, nonprofit, um, you know, when we talk about it, it's very clear to us that we need to think bigger if we truly want to end hunger and food insecurity. Uh, and to do that, you have to put policy at the center of what you do. Um, I think the, when you're talking about nutrition programs or you're talking about health programs, employment programs, housing programs, the ability or inability of people to access those programs, uh, it impacts whether or not people come to a food bank or to a food program. Uh, so in not exploring policies that could be working better or, you know, figuring out if a policy is effective or ineffective and advocating for change in some way, shape or form. Speaker 3 00:07:32 Um, I feel like you're, you're just leaving the most impactful tool on the table. Uh, I always think about this now that we had the example of the, uh, enhanced child tax credit last year and how incredibly impactful that was in reducing child food insecurity at, you know, the program, it was in effect for six months and it cut child food insecurity by 25%. I think that's a really good way to describe how impactful a policy could be. Um, and at our food bank, you know, if our mission is to ensure that everyone has the nutritious food that they need every day, then it's just so important to us to make sure that we're focusing on policies that can make that into a long term reality. Um, and you know, we're a food bank. We're always going to our, our mission is always gonna be centered around making sure that people have the food that they need today. Speaker 3 00:08:24 Mm-hmm, <affirmative> through our pantry network, through our network of kids programs, senior programs. But if we, if we really, really want to end hunger and food insecurity and tackle poverty and deal with the underlying issues like employment issues and housing issues and health issues, then we have to dive way deeper, um, even systemic racism. We have to dive so much deeper into these issues. If we wanna track, if we wanna tackle, um, food insecurity, make sure that people have access to food. And, um, yeah, I could, I could talk about this for a few hours, so I'll cut myself off there, but, um, I just think it's so, so critical, um, to have advocacy at a health and human services, nonprofit, um, I think it's essential. Speaker 2 00:09:09 Kim said some things that absolutely I'm going to echo here too, but for me it has always been very simple because from the day I walked into the state house as an employee to now being on the other side and working with folks in the state house, um, I've heard it over and over and I've said it even more times since we can either speak for ourselves or let others set, set our agendas. And it is that simple. If we don't speak up for ourselves, we don't speak on behalf of those. We serve, we work with somebody else is going to, and they're not gonna have the same interest. So the value of getting involved in, you know, what we do, not only on a professional level, but also the volunteers, you know, volunteering and helping out on it is very important too. The value on that is you, you are really helping to share our story, to share the story of those. Speaker 2 00:10:00 We serve what we do everything to tell the story. And there's a lot of misconceptions out there about those that we serve. There's a lot of misconceptions about what we do. So it is an ability to be able to say, no, here's what we do. Here's how we do it. Here's here are the folks we are helping out. Here's their story. And to be able to share the truth of what, what is going on out there and Kimmy hit a very important point that we can drive the need to change out there. You know, whether it's through the social determinants and elsewhere through innovation, through some of the areas, cuz it's not enough just to feed the line, we gotta end the line. And that's what it's all about is, you know, we tell people we have the worst business model possible and that our number one goal is to padlock our front doors. Speaker 2 00:10:46 We will not be satisfied till today. We are shut down because we know then we've ended hunger and that's why we're working toward end to end hunger. We've gotta address the other issues too, that tie to it, poverty, uh, employment, all the issues, housing, transportation, and so tying those together. And I think that is even more important now because there's much more recognition of how everything ties together and plays off of one. Another hunger does not work in isolation. It is tied to these other factors. Other factors are tied to it. So we really have to drive that agenda innovatively to change an narrative and to address everything that contributes to poverty and hunger. Speaker 1 00:11:27 Yeah, absolutely. Yep. I, um, I think the past couple years have really showed people how much policy affects their lives. Yep. Um, the child tax credit, um, snap emergency allotments, that maximum benefit that folks are receiving, um, you know, all sorts of different levers that the government can and, and has to take. Um, it's, it's just clear the past couple years, how much that impacts people's everyday lives. Um, and the challenges that also come with that, you know, um, there are quite a few challenges trying to change policy. I mean, we are, we are kind of talking about systems change here, you know, even culture changing, um, people's like mindsets and attitudes towards these sorts of things. So, um, what are some challenges that you have run into as you advocate for policy change? And I I'm sure there are re are recent examples. So I'd love to hear some recent examples. If you have some Speaker 2 00:12:36 Certainly in there, there is rarely a day that we do not come up against some of the challenges. And I put 'em in one category in two different buckets and it's, uh, misperceptions, misunderstandings. You know, the first one is simply on what we do and advocating for food banks, advocating for the partner agencies, advocating for our customers. As that we serve, there's a big misconception about what we are allowed to do in advocating. We are allowed to lobby, you know, let's go ahead and throw that word out there. A lot of people don't like the word lobby because it's has a lot of negative connotations to it. But yes, we, we are allowed to go in and tell our story and to say, Hey, this needs changed or this is what we need to do on this. We are allowed to tell our story about a lot of folks, believe that nonprofits are limited in being able to do that. Speaker 2 00:13:29 And that simply is not true. And that is something that preach time and time again, that we are allowed to participate in our democracy. We are allowed to participate in our government and we are allowed to do so in a way that benefits our customers that helps us be more efficient. So that's the first thing is that misunderstanding of what we can and cannot do the other misconception, those we serve. And I talked a little bit about that before, but you know, children, elderly, disabled individuals, those are some of the folks that depend upon us. You look at the folks who are coming through. Many of them have multiple jobs and we've talked to a lot of our customers as they come through that. Talk about, Hey, I picked up another job or Hey, I picked up part-time work here. And so a lot of, lot of the folks are working, but you know, right now, if wages go up 5% inflation currently is running 10%. Speaker 2 00:14:28 I'm not a math major, but I can figure out that's a bad equation. And that's the thing that right now times are tough. And so we hear those stories from folks who are working more hours trying to support themselves and they may have children or what we are hearing a lot. We talk to on a regular basis, grandparents raising their grandchildren because of some of the other issues, the opioid crisis, uh, other issues like that, that, again, there's all of those factors that go into poverty, hunger, and everything. We are seeing more grandparents raising their grandchildren and often they're on fixed incomes, which means they're relying on us to get healthy sustenance, to get healthy food. And so we see time after time, these people come through who do not fit the stereotypes who do not fit the misconceptions of what a lot of people like to like to portray those that we serve. Speaker 2 00:15:16 Now, these are folks who need assistance. We're here to help them. And that's what we're going to do. And we're gonna make sure we do so with dignity and that we respect them when we do so. And we are going to tell their story. We're gonna try to make sure everybody knows, no, this is the reality versus what you may think and busting that mythology around those we serve. That is one of the biggest, biggest areas that we advocate, cuz that's not only on the government affairs, but media relations, public information, and elsewhere busting that mythology on those we serve. That's one of the biggest issues we need to address and continue to, uh, change. Speaker 1 00:15:55 Yeah, absolutely. That is huge. And that's an ongoing effort. I feel like very much. Yeah. Kimmy, do you have any examples? Speaker 3 00:16:05 Sure. I'll, I'll build off of, uh, what Tim discussed. Uh, you know, I think one of the biggest challenges and one of my biggest frustrations I'll say, uh, is that quite often the people that are impacted by a policy changing or not changing are the people who are not brought to the table to discuss what that change would be and what is actually needed. So I think as advocates, it gets really frustrating to try to explain that, uh, you know, when you're talking to just the general public, when you're talking to media, when you're talking to elected officials, because it can, it can be really challenging to explain what the actual impact of a policy is going to be on individual people in our community. And it can also be really difficult when you're in an advocacy position or if you're in a direct outreach or, uh, client facing position to hear those stories day after day and know what the impact of a policy would be. Speaker 3 00:17:05 And to have that impact, um, not understood by those who are writing the bills and introducing the legislation. I think it, it can be really frustrated and challenging, I think to Tim's point really trying to bust some of the myths around the work that we do around, uh, nutrition programs, state, nutrition programs, federal nutrition programs is such a critical part of our job. Um, I'll say the most recent example of this, you know, uh, last year there was a bill in the Ohio state house that would have meant that a hundred thousand Ohioans would lose their snap benefits, uh, because of the way that it was written. Uh, and it would have meant that anyone with us with a very, very modest savings in their bank account would no longer be eligible for snap only $2,250. And it was, it was really challenging to talk through that, uh, with media and the general public, because snap and public benefits are such complicated programs and trying to convey, uh, just how much of an impact that would have on those who receive the benefit was just really challenging. Speaker 3 00:18:17 Um, if you're trying to get to a situation where you have enough in your bank account to withstand emergencies, like if your water tank goes out or if your car breaks down or if your kid breaks their arm and you end up in the ER, uh, you know, you need a savings account and it's, it's common sense. It's something that we all agree on, but sometimes policies can be so complicated that it's really difficult to explain that, and it's really difficult to get that message across. So I think for, for me, that is one of the biggest challenges. Um, and I think that that challenge can be, you know, overcome or mitigated by just having people around the table who are impacted by policies. Um, instead of having, you know, folks who aren't as familiar with those systems, um, enacting the policies. So I think just listening is a really, uh, great way to deal with that. Speaker 3 00:19:05 Um, and then I would say the second, uh, big challenge that we see at the state house and in the federal government is, is that there's so many issues that are worthy of change and worthy of working on, you know, as, uh, in my personal life. There's so many issues that I'm passionate about. It's really difficult for me to focus in. And I know that that is the case for our elected officials. They hear story after story, they have meeting after meeting, um, from constituents, from lobbyists, from donors, from everyone who comes in their doors. And I think it's really difficult to try to stretch very limited resources to meet all of those issues. And so I, I do feel for our elected officials having to make really difficult decisions, um, with limited resources. And, um, I think that's one of the parts of our job that can be tough, is trying to convey just how much hunger affects everything else and how, um, so many underlying issues impact hunger. So I would say that's kind of our, the second challenge that I see most often is the fact that, you know, as they say so much is on fire at the same time. Um, Speaker 1 00:20:15 And I think that gets even more difficult, sort of the closer we get to election season, that's kind of the boat we're in right now is one, there are a ton of issues that need to be addressed. Um, and also, you know, folks are going out and, you know, campaigning, um, during the election season. Um, and that's getting farther and farther out <laugh> into the, to the normal year. Um, and it can be just really difficult to get the attention sometimes of, um, well-meaning lawmakers, but, um, having so much on their plate. So I wanted to ask you, you both are amazing advocates and are, are really good at communicating the, the challenges and the successes. Um, I would love to know how you cut through the noise and get the attention of our elected officials, especially right now during, um, the ever evolving election season. Speaker 3 00:21:17 Sure. Uh, I think it boils down to one thing and that is relationships and relationship building. Uh, so I don't say relationships as in, I have a relationship with every single lawmaker. I think building relationships with, we have so many supporters, we have so many volunteers who dedicate their time. We have so many donors who give their money and their resources and engaging them to reach out to their elected officials and to build relationships, um, so that the food bank can further our issues with our lawmakers is so important. Um, you know, there is a lot of noise when it comes to election season. It can be really tricky just because not only are our lawmakers down in Columbus or DC, you know, working, but they're also at home campaigning. They're also at home, um, doing in district meetings and district visits events. They, they work a lot of hours. Speaker 3 00:22:10 Um, so it can be tough to, you know, be another email in a very loaded inbox, full of emails. So I think having those relationships built makes it so much easier for nonprofits who haven't worked in advocacy space before just reaching out and introducing yourself and getting those relationships started is really important. And then trying to understand where some of your supporters are. Um, and if some of your supporters have relationships with their, um, respective lawmakers is just a really good way to get started, because I'll tell you when it comes to cutting through the noise, we're able to do it pretty quickly and swiftly, um, because of all of those relationships that we've built. And I mean, it's not overnight, it takes years of cultivation. Um, and it's a two way street, but I think relationships are absolutely key to, um, cutting through the noise, especially during, um, busy, busy election season. Speaker 2 00:23:05 Yes. And you know, absolutely I'm going to echo what Kimmy just said, relationships, relationships, relationships. But I think some, what she said most importantly was a multiple layers of relationships that not just with the officials, but with supporters, with community leaders, with their staff, with the various folks that can help us tell our story that can help on their end, understand our story and what needs to be done. Cuz there are so many issues out there in the noise. These days is louder than it has ever been. Uh, when we talk about cutting through the noise and the other issues I've been doing this longer than I to, I've never seen so many different issues and so, so much going at once. And so it is more difficult these days to get through that at times. And you've got to, and it's building those relationship relationships and then maintaining those relationships. Speaker 2 00:23:59 We cannot just go in once a year and expect, uh, people understand our story to under understand those that we serve and everything, the communication there has to be a plan to it. It has to be carried out. We have to maintain that part of that is getting elected officials, staff, public officials, others on site at a pantry distribution at a produce marketer somewhere so they can see firsthand. I cannot tell you the amazing impact it makes when somebody pulls into our parking lot, sees our drive through distribution and the cars that are in line for that. And what it, the impact that has on understanding what we do and the need out there and how important it is and how people rely on that. Seeing that first hand, and then walking them through the facility to say, we went through 83 million pounds of food last year and that blows their mind to think that much food being put out there. Speaker 2 00:24:55 And so getting them on site, getting them to one of our pantries and elsewhere, it's the same thing. You know, one of the things we've talked about here is getting some folks into some of our elected officials into possibly volunteer, spend a day and we can talk to 'em and show 'em. So there's opportunities like that. And, you know, just continuing to tell that story, to get the exposure, to communicate and keep that relationship. And it has to be on the local state federal level because all are tied together, has to be with the official staff, with community leaders and others, you know, local chambers of commerce business folks like that. It's everybody needs to be involved in Speaker 1 00:25:33 It. And I think, you know, as a, a younger, new, new in my career advocate, um, I think that relationships and relying on your network to foster those relationships with lawmakers is something that I, I personally can forget. And I think a lot of younger advocates feel the same way where, you know, you think you have to foster all these relationships on your own, where there are really multiple people that you can rely on. I mean, as a state association, we rely on the two of you to, you know, with your relationships, with the lawmakers that are in your regions for that kind of advocacy one-on-one sort of relationship. So, um, yeah, I think those are, are great tips and great advice. Speaker 3 00:26:26 And I'll say building on that and what Tim said earlier, I think part of being in the advocacy world and having an advocacy role is just making sure that the right people are in the right place at the right time talking about the right topic. Because I think a lot of the time for us, it's just being a convener and making sure that those relationships are being built, um, not so much that we have to make call after call after call, which we do, but we mm-hmm, <affirmative> making sure that we're convening the right people together because our, you know, our lawmakers, our donors, our business leaders, they have very specific passions and interests and issues that they're, um, most passionate about. You know, things like, uh, our child nutrition programs. You know, if we have a lawmaker come in who is really passionate about, um, children's issues, we'll connect them to our director of programs that they can talk more in depth about what's working, what's not working and what they could do, let's say on the federal level to make life easier so that we can get food to more kids. So my job, which I love this part about my job is like being able to just convene those folks together to have very specific discussions and, and just letting their passion kind of grow into a more robust policy discussion. So I, I love being kind of like a convener, um, and not having to hold every single relationship myself. Speaker 2 00:27:50 And that is a great point Kimmy. Um, I will follow up on that, that, you know, we are not alone in what we do Kimmy and I talk on a regular basis. We work with the association folks and other food banks. And so there is a network out there that we're all in this together. And so utilize those resources. And the other thing, not everybody is comfortable going and speaking to a lawmaker or standing up and speaking somewhere. So they may be better off communicating via email or somewhat. That's wonderful. We, we can still utilize on that. And so there are multiple ways to get our message out via part of the a C network and to get our, to get our story out to folks like that and we need and will utilize everyone that we possibly can. Speaker 1 00:28:32 And I think I would be remiss to, to ask you to not ask you both, um, you know, we are of course coming up on election season and I was just curious and wondering, um, if your organizations are doing anything to engage customers in, you know, voter engagement, mm-hmm, <affirmative> registering customers to vote, um, or even what are some creative ways that you have engaged, uh, folks with LIS expertise, um, in your advocacy work. Speaker 2 00:29:06 Sure. I'll start out with that. And that is a great point because, you know, I started out talking about participating in our democracy and that sounds kind of high level high fall, I think is a phrase that I grew up here and on things like that, but it really is true. And that is not only for us on advocating for those, we serve for our organizations, but also making sure that those, we serve that our fellow employees, our volunteers and others participate through the electoral process. And so we work internally. You know, we make sure that folks in here, my fellow employees know when they, they need to be registered, how to register different areas like that. We will work with our partner agencies on getting voter information out there. You know, that is one thing nonprofits, nonprofits cannot get involved in partisan politics. That is the one area that is no. Speaker 2 00:29:57 So we don't say, Hey, here's some, you know, these people, no, we say what we say is, here's it, here's a link to get yourself registered. Here's a link to find your polling place, oh, you need help with transportation. Here's a number you can call on that. So that folks, we do what we can to get information out there to everybody so that everyone can have their voice heard within our process because that is, you know, it's a privilege and it's a right and we're gonna do what we can and work through the various conduits to do so. And it was interesting during the census, you know, we talk about elections, but the census was another one that we deployed the same strategy to try to make sure people were fairly counted and represented in that. And so it's not only elections, it's census and other things like that, make sure people are counted and their voices are heard. That's, we're gonna do whatever we can to do. So Speaker 1 00:30:50 Being a trusted me messenger mm-hmm <affirmative> and sharing information. Yeah. Um, Kimmy, do you have anything to add? Speaker 3 00:30:58 Yeah, we, we do a lot of the same work that Tim mentioned at our food bank. Um, a couple of years ago, we did, we had a, a just brilliant intern, um, who helped us put together a voter education guide that went out to our network of partners. And it just shared how as, um, anti-hunger partners folks could, uh, help people get registered to vote. So we we've done that. Um, we've also found that having, um, folks who are a lot more knowledgeable than us register, uh, folks to vote works works really well. I, I, you know, during the height of the pandemic, when a lot of volunteers weren't out, we, we marched the lines and tried to help people register to vote. But, um, you know, we're our space in the anti-hunger world. Doesn't always translate to me understanding how to fill out a form and, uh, share with people what all the different regulations are. Speaker 3 00:31:53 So mm-hmm, <affirmative>, we work really closely with, uh, Northeast Ohio voter advocates, they're, uh, Nova and they come out and help people, uh, register to vote at our weekly food distribution, our drive-through distribution. So this past year, in the past few months, what they've been working on even more so is voter education. Um, as the election continues to evolve, uh, in the state of Ohio, they've just been trying to keep people updated about when the primary election is, um, uh, both primary elections are so that people know what's coming. Um, they shared a story with me during a June, um, drive through distribution when they help someone who is in their fifties registered to vote for the first time, which is really exciting. So that's, that's something that we're really passionate about. Um, too, in the next couple of weeks, we're also, uh, doing, uh, two white house listening sessions. So the white house is convening a conference on hunger, health, and nutrition this fall. So we're hosting two sessions, uh, with people who are, um, who have lived experience with food insecurity, who will be coming to share their feedback on, um, on what the white house and what the administration and what Congress can do to really tackle food insecurity and hunger, um, in the years to come. So they'll be sharing their feedback with us and all of that feedback will go right to the white house. So we're really excited about that effort. Speaker 2 00:33:19 And Sarah, we would be really remiss. Kimmy did a great job of mentioning the white house conference, and that's gonna be huge coming up. And the other thing we would be remiss and not mentioning is September is hunger action month. And it is a amazing opportunity for people to be involved, to have their voices elevated and herd. So white house conference on hunger and hunger action month, look for information on those and use those as opportunities to get involved in the fight to end hunger. Speaker 1 00:33:48 Yeah, absolutely. And I think the white house conferences in September too, so yep. Just, uh, so guide in yep. Yeah. Month full of, of advocating. Um, yes. <laugh> um, you had a perfect segue, Tim. I wanted to ask both of you, what advice you had, um, for individuals who wanted to get involved in advocacy, either as an individual or, you know, they want to start working with a, with an organization. Um, so I wanted to ask you kind of how someone like that could get started. Speaker 2 00:34:24 Sure. I, I think there's a couple different ways, but most important thing is make yourself available. You know, if it's as a volunteer and if you are, you know, comfortable speaking, going to community groups or whatever, or simply as a volunteer to help, uh, contact elected officials or others, you know, that is one of the biggest ways to go into it. And if someone is looking to do it, you know, as a career to get into, you know, sort of what Kimmy and I do on a daily basis here, that there are various ways to follow that it's, you know, through working with the food bank, volunteering or starting out with a partner agency or somewhere, but, you know, I think the biggest thing is identifying what it is that you like to do. You are good, good at doing or what you want to do and, and making yourself available to do that. So if it's a offending, hunger is a passion, there's a lot of, lot of places out there that can use your services, your voice, so make yourself available. Speaker 3 00:35:22 Oh my, I mean, my biggest piece of advice is to just do it. It's, it's a, uh, it's not as intimidating as you think it would be to reach out to an elected official, uh, most nonprofits that do advocacy, try to make it as easy as possible. I'll say at the food bank, if you I'll do a plug, if you go to greater Cleveland, foodbank.org/advocate, uh, you can sign up to be, uh, notified anytime. There's an issue that comes up and we need you to reach out to your lawmaker. And we even put a template message together that you can customize. And all you have to do is sit, send. Um, so most nonprofits that are involved in this work try to make it as simple as they can feeding America. The Ohio association of feed banks does a fantastic job. I get email updates all the time from, um, the association. Speaker 3 00:36:10 So I would say most, most nonprofits enter your email address into their list, serve, and you will be good to go for years. Um, and if, if their nonprofit is thoughtful, they won't bother you every other hour with your emails. But, um, I'll say it at our food bank. I try to keep it to like one per month at most, because there's nothing worse than getting a, an hourly email about an action that you need to take. So, uh, Mo I will say food banks are all of our food banks are really good about making sure that we ask you to take action on an issue when that action is most needed. So Speaker 2 00:36:47 That's a great point Kimmy, and I will supplement that with, go on to your local food banks website, sign up for their newsletters, sign up to be communicated to with however you wish to be. Cause I know in our newsletter, that's how we do our calls to action and Kimmy made a great point. We're not gonna flood people with a bunch of actions. We're gonna call on folks when we need it, but it's a great way to stay up to date, to get your information. And it's not just on advocacy. We have a variety of newsletters people can sign on to, and it's a way to keep informed what's going on with the food bank and community. So sign up, find your local food bank website, sign up for, uh, what your interest is interest is and get onto those list serves. Speaker 1 00:37:34 I think that's perfect. Yeah, mm-hmm, <affirmative> um, great advice. The two of you, I so appreciate it. Thank you for your time today. I wanted to ask you all, how can listeners, um, see more of your work and your, your food banks' work, um, share your, your website, social media, whatever it is. So, Speaker 2 00:37:58 Yep. Mo F c.org. Um, I would suggest for folks to go to that. It has the links for our social media. We are active on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, as well as, uh, few others, but go onto our site. And within our site, we also have an area to advocate, but also to find other information, including last year for hunger action month, we had, we did some tapings of a variety of individuals, including myself for what is your food perspective. And it was a number of us individually talking about our perspective on food, how it ties into society and hunger and all of that. And there are some great stories to hear on that one. So go in and peruse through, you know, news releases, uh, the videos as well as sign up for the newsletters and stuff. And you'll, you'll get the full story. There is a treasure chest of riches out there to find out more, not only about us, but every food bank out there. Speaker 3 00:38:57 Um, if you go to greater Cleveland, foodbank.org, you can find ver most of the same information that Tim mentioned. Uh, so you'll find your advocacy page, our volunteer page, um, our giving page and information on our help center, if you, or anyone, you know, needs help, um, accessing food. Um, we also have Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, um, at the respective handles, uh, greater Cleveland food bank or CLE food bank on Twitter. And we, we try to be a little bit more politically savvy on Twitter. So if you wanna stay up to date with our advocacy and policy work, I highly suggest following us on Speaker 0 00:39:38 Twitter, Speaker 1 00:39:44 Kimmy and Tim, their respective organizations and all of Ohio's food bank leaders have consistently kept up the drum beat for the need for support. As our food banks struggle with skyrocketing gas and food prices, the drastic drop off of individual and corporate donations and the decreased volunteer engagement. We would not be able to do this work without the whole team, our food banks, our partner agencies, other partner organizations and advocates, our board chair, Julie Chase, Moorefield discussed a recent food distribution. They did in a morning journal article saying, quote, it got to the end of the distribution. And even if there were two families in one car, we could only give them one box because we don't have any more boxes. I think that what you are going to see is we are going to have to spread out the food that we have a little thinner to look people in the eye and say, we don't have more food. We don't want to turn anyone away. Speaker 1 00:40:58 I know that we talked a lot about advocacy actions that individuals can take or organizations can take, but I also wanted to give a shout out to our volunteers that come in sometimes every day, sometimes every week, sometimes every couple weeks. And although we have really dedicated volunteers, we unfortunately are not back to pre pandemic volunteer levels. And so I wanted to make a pitch. If you have been, been waiting to volunteer at your local food bank or volunteer at your local food pantry, I really would like to encourage you. We'll make sure to put, um, how you can find your local food bank in the show notes. And then of course, additionally, we'll put some actions in the show notes that you can take if you haven't already. Um, and I just wanna thank you for any action that you take and for listening and thanks so much to Kimmy and Tim for being on the podcast, we will talk to you next time.

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