WITNESSES TO HUNGER
Bringing Witness to the Needs of Children and Families
Witnesses to Hunger, started in 2008, recruits and trains individuals from neighborhoods who experience hunger and poverty to provide witness of the issue and impact to community leaders and stakeholders. Many witnesses are mothers and caregivers of young children. Witnesses to Hunger is a program of the Center for Hunger-free Communities based in Pennsylvania, with groups in multiple cities, including Boston, Massachusetts; Camden, New Jersey; New Haven, Connecticut; and Washington, DC. Witnesses share their photos and stories at a wide array of events, hearings, print and television media, symposiums, and classrooms, with the goal of improving systems and policies impacting hunger and access to healthy food.
Witness to Hunger, from the original research project, offered witness testimony as a method of advocacy. The initial Witness to Hunger witness members mentored newer members. The new trend of Witnesses to Hunger is to train advocates in diverse media presentation and speaking, writing skills for blogs and op-eds, cultural awareness and competency, as well as background on Witnesses to Hunger program and the issues in order to professionalize the witnesses role.
Witness to Hunger was selected as a NOW Bright Spot because of its work to build awareness of hunger and empower families experiencing hunger to advocate for policy and system changes at the local, state, and national level.
LEADERSHIP & COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE
The Witnesses to Hunger website is an instrumental tool in the story the witnesses share. An array of storytelling methods is used, including personal examples from witnesses, the witnesses professional experiences with their colleagues from the national, state, and local level, as well as detailing the diverse goals of each group to show the scope of the projects individually as well as overall program. Witnesses to Hunger has already successfully inserted one of their priorities into the federal planning of the Farm Bill to expand resources for children who miss the age cut off for HeadStart and must wait 10 months to join.
Witnesses to Hunger is looking to focus more on their work process and professionalizing witness training and activities. Recent changes include a structured business meeting style and working to have meetings as accessible as possible so everyone can easily participate.
Witnesses to Hunger has gained access to new initiatives, people, and events. They are being recognized as having an impact in building awareness and advocating for change. More people are hearing about the Witnesses to Hunger. The Program Manager has increased marketing and branding.There's more engagement among the witnesses.
The Witnesses themselves are the assets for the program and the community. For solutions to hunger, their testimony and advocacy are an asset.
HOW IS SUCCESS MONITORED & ADJUSTMENTS MADE?
The Program Manager is using information to drive improvement. There is more membership participation in events.There is less chatting on inconsequential conversations at meetings as well as more stability in the overall witnesses’ participation. Also, the media outreach efforts have really helped to bring the members to drive for a more professional level.
Witnesses to Hunger success would be achieved if they 1) end the need for witnesses by solving poverty and hunger, or 2) reduce poverty; or 3) engage more people in Witnesses to Hunger and encourage/empower more people to speak up and speak against the status quo.
EQUITY, ADVERSITY & THE EXPERIENCE OF TRAUMA
Internally, the program addresses equity by recruiting residents from communities experiencing high levels of poverty and training and empowering them to seek out platforms where they can provide their testimony on the conditions in their communities. Witnesses receive skill development on diverse media interactions, speaking skills, message and branding, and diverse cultural awareness and competency.
Witnesses are impacting their community as they stand up and vocalize the barriers and challenges of hunger and poverty. They are speaking out to bring awareness and attention to the issues and work for action.