Foodlink’s Advocacy & Government Relations Specialist, Dominique Richardson, joined thousands of food advocates from across the country for the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference in Washington DC earlier this month.
The three-day conference, co-sponsored by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America, focused on anti-hunger and anti-poverty initiatives from federal to local governments and policy changes that would reduce food insecurity and promote equity across our communities.
Richardson attended many informative in-person workshops such as:
- A Thriving Transition: UnRooting the Barriers to SNAP for Those Formerly Incarcerated
- Creative Ways to Address Anti-Hunger Work: Explaining the Barriers and Positive Impacts of SNAP
- Combating Militate Hunger: Learning from Military and Veteran Family Experiences to Find Scalable Solutions
Two other Foodlink staff members also attended the conference virtually.
“What I loved most about attending the conference was how they honored people with lived experiences,” Richardson said. “Each workshop provided so much insight into the impact of food insecurity — not just because they had experts providing facts and data, but the panelist also included real people who shared stories of their past/present struggles and hopes for a better future. I left the conference with a fire in my veins!”
On the final day of the conference, anti-hunger advocates met with members of Congress and their staffs to share information about strengthening federal nutrition programs and discuss anti-poverty priorities. Richardson met with Congressman Joseph Morelle and his legislative staff to discuss Foodlink’s advocacy goals to strengthen SNAP in the 2023 Farm Bill. Priorities included expanding access to SNAP to Puerto Rico and all U.S. territories, eliminating the 5-year waiting period for legal permanent immigrants to receive food and assistance programs, remove barriers so college students will have better access to SNAP, and to allow the purchasing of hot prepared foods from food retailers.
Richardson also joined food bankers and advocates across New York State in a group meeting with Senator Gillibrand’s legislative aides to encourage support in the upcoming Farm Bill.
“It is always an amazing experience sharing information with our elected officials and letting them know the needs of the people in their districts,” said Richardson, who summarized the top five takeaways from their time in D.C.
Five things I learned from attending the conference:
- There is so much power in the storytelling and lived experiences. Lived experiences should be at the center of every policy and decision that impacts our communities.
- The power of networking: Food-related advocacy is important and necessary work, but like any social service field it can lead to burnout. Having an opportunity to meet with other food advocates across the country rejuvenated me because it provided an opportunity to connect and learn from others who also understand that this work can be hard. And that is OK.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. I volunteered to be a speaker at the Senator Gillibrand meeting and I’m not going to lie, I was so nervous! Meeting with elected officials in a huge building where bills have been passed was intimidating. But my passion for advocacy made my voice strong and unwavering; it showed me that advocacy work is exactly what I should be doing.
- You will never know who you will meet… I reconnected with a dear friend from childhood who is now leading anti-hunger advocacy efforts in Florida.
- Wear comfortable shoes! Lobby Day requires lots of walking back in forth to different government buildings. It was certainly a workout!
“I can’t wait to share what I learned with all of Foodlink,” Richardson said. “I’m excited to host screenings of some of AHPC workshops and have discussions with Foodlink staff so they can be informed on food advocacy and ways they can also contribute to this work.”