Food Insecurity Leaders Advocate and Adapt Through COVID-19
Throughout the spring and summer, Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Building Advocates Leadership Program’s graduates used their skills and lived experience to advocate for necessary food security measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Accomplishments include working with the Hannaford To Go Program to improve the curbside use of SNAP/EBT, joining calls with Members of Congress to share lived experience of food insecurity in the time of COVID-19, and community building with SNAP-Educator, Nancy Wood, in a virtual Cooking Matters program.
Advocates identified a barrier to using SNAP benefits with curbside pick-up, and worked with Hannaford to enable SNAP (food assistance) EBT cards to be processed as a to-go payment option. As a result of their advocacy, Mainers who use SNAP (food assistance) EBT cards, now have the option of a functional curbside pick-up program, allowing them to avoid contact with indoor shopping just like any other shopper.
Key focus areas of their advocacy work have been working with Members of Congress to encourage the extension and expansion of the Pandemic EBT program, which supports Maine children who receive school meals but have lost daily access to those meals with school closures. Advocates also worked to support an increase to the SNAP program, similar to the SNAP increase implemented in response to the 2008 recession.
“We could never have imagined the power and importance of the Building Advocates Leadership Program when we launched the pilot last fall. No one could have predicted a global pandemic. Our advocates were ready to bring their stories and experiences to critical conversations concerning food security with a range of key stakeholders, including several Congressional Members,” stated Megan Taft, Good Shepherd Food Bank’s Community Food Security Advocate. “I am continually humbled by the courage, strength, and vulnerability shared by each of the advocates as they use their stories as tools for change in our collective fight to end hunger in Maine.”
The Building Advocates Leadership Program focuses on strengthening, uplifting, and integrating voices of community members who are struggling with food insecurity into a statewide advocacy movement to end hunger. Throughout the program, participants build community, strengthen their skills in public speaking, and learn how to use their personal stories as tools for change. The Rockland-based program is co-led by a team, including Good Shepherd Food Bank staff, Area Interfaith Outreach (AIO) volunteers and mentors from the local community.
Building Advocates Leadership Program adapted to a virtual platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is expanding participation in the program this fall. Participants who use services of area food pantries who wish to play an active role in addressing food insecurity in their own communities and statewide, are welcomed to participate in this program.
For more information, Building Advocates Leadership Program, or please contact Megan Taft, Community Food Security Advocate for Good Shepherd Food Bank, at firstname.lastname@example.org.