Who is hungry in America? And what does it mean for millions of children to be food insecure every day in our wealthy nation? These questions are not new, but starting last November, there is an innovative new project launched by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger putting names, faces and personal stories to this vast issue and helping to shape collective action for effective change.
An idea three years in the making has taken shape in the form of This Is Hunger, a free, interactive traveling multimedia exhibit that pushes the boundaries of our understanding and conversations around hunger. I recently spoke with MAZON’s Rabbi Erin Glazer, who shared insights about the inception of this impressive undertaking.
The exhibit kicked off in Los Angeles on its coast-to-coast, 10-month tour, which will span 30 cities, including Washington, DC, Rockville and Baltimore in February.
Several years ago, MAZON engaged photographer Barbara Grover to travel around the country taking photos and recording first-person accounts in an effort to highlight the reality of hunger across America. Recognizing the power of these stories, MAZON began looking for a way to share the important narratives with the broader community and put a face to the nearly one-in-eight Americans who are impacted by hunger.
While there were of course physical limitations to a traveling exhibit, there was a strong desire to bring this exhibit to as many people as possible. MAZON began looking for a literal vehicle to share these stories and their mission of education and action to address hunger. The design and creative teams worked to transform the content into an experience, eventually settling on a 53-foot expandable trailer, which is designed to feel like entering a room.
The interactive experience provides insight into why addressing hunger is so crucial and offers a chance for participants to reflect on their own stories as well as an opportunity to take action. Participants sign up for a free one-hour slot to this timed-entry exhibit, and the truck can hold up to 30 people at a time.
MAZON has partnered with Jewish communities across the country to bring this experience to as many people as possible. In the DC area, Washington Hebrew Congregation and the JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville are hosting the exhibit.
MAZON hopes this powerful experience will then compel visitors to do something further, and that it will not be a one-time event, but rather a jumping off point for our community to come together around a shared vision to lend much needed voices to addressing hunger.
As Rabbi Glazer reminded me, “There’s no way to ‘food bank’ our way out of hunger. Food banks are important, but they’re not enough.” Hunger and food insecurity affect people of all faiths and all backgrounds in every city and every neighborhood, including our own community. We must look at the big picture and continue to work for a comprehensive solution. One goal of This Is Hunger is to use stories to move communities to action to protect our social safety net, which includes benefits such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) and school meals.
“Threats to SNAP are imminent, including the possibility of dangerous structural changes and severe funding cuts, so we must speak up now,” shared Rabbi Glazer. MAZON focuses on the long-term vision of supporting policies to meet the magnitude of the issue and hopes to mobilize the Jewish community in making change around hunger. “This is something our community cares about. This is something that’s important—we can have a powerful voice,” she explained. “We can stand with people all over the country and make sure our elected officials know we’re watching, and that federal programs helping millions of hungry Americans need to be protected.”
This is Hunger will be visiting the Greater Washington DC area and Baltimore throughout February. Tickets will be available online starting the second week of January. To reserve your free tickets and learn more, visit thisishunger.org/the-tour.