Saturday, June 26, 2010

'Baking Bread for the Homeless'

If your name is Bread for the World, does that mean you bake bread for the homeless?  

For those of us who know Bread for the World, that is a silly question. And the young man who posed the query was partly challenging us but also wanting to know what we were all about.

The question came up in the context of a dialogue we had with middle school students from Belen, Los Lunas, Bosque Farms and other nearby towns in New Mexico. Those communities are in Valencia County, just south of Albuquerque.  This county has a high rate of food insecurity, so the subject of hunger hit home with many of the participants.  Check out the web site for
Feed Belen

It's not that the students were necessarily from households that lacked access to sufficient food.  There was no real way for us to know.  But some shared stories about someone they knew who, for example, had to resort to services provided by a local pantry.

Sarah Newman from the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger joined me in a discussion about domestic and global hunger that we had with about 28 students and three teachers. The participants are involved in the Summer of Service 2010 (SOS) program sponsored by the Belen Consolidated Schools and Earth Force, an organization that engages young people as active citizens who improve the environment and their communities now and in the future.

Cara Lynch, coordinator of the SOS program in Valencia County, offered this description:
Participating students will construct community projects around the issues of food in our community by rotating through four local sites over the course of five weeks: Willie Chavez Park, Belen High School, Belen Middle School, and Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area. 
Cara had asked us to discuss the subject of advocacy as another option (besides direct service) to address hunger.

So what approach did Sarah and I take?  We decided to emphasize the point that advocacy begins with education and awareness, and also to draw a connection to the direct service programs that many of the students had already heard about.

We started out with a modified (for a secular setting) version of the hunger quiz below.  This is taken from Bread for the World's Make Hunger History booklet.  (The link is for the latest version; the image at the top of the blog is for an earlier version).

Click on image below to see larger version

We followed the quiz with a scaled-down version of the hunger banquet (using apples and pieces of apple instead of meals). We used the script from Global Citizen Corps, although Oxfam also has a great script.

Sarah followed that with descriptions of her organization and some of the programs available in New Mexico and how food insecurity ties in.  I talked about some great programs that work directly with people. The students loved the brochures about Heifer International that they received (although many had not even heard about the Heifer)

So what happens next?

Our dialogue with the students was just the beginning of a process that will offer them a hands-on-approach to several projects. 
Each week, teams of 12 students and one Belen Consolidated teacher will examine the topic of food from the various sites in order to develop community service projects that alleviate the problems of food in Valencia County.  
Stay tuned for updates and a follow-up.

And here are the answers to the quiz.

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