Demand for emergency food aid is at an all-time high, except, we can’t really call it “emergency” aid anymore – not when so many families fight to feed their children on a daily basis and stories of children loading their pockets with crackers at school, so they can try and help feed their siblings at home, have become more common. In Georgia, 1 in 5 people struggle to combat food insecurity. Now more than ever, we need to educate our legislators about what is happening in our communities- to our neighbors. We need to demand that they make addressing hunger a priority.
For far too long we have sat by while policy and laws have happened to us, feeling as though we have no real power in the decision-making process. However, what we have missed in the process is our ability to influence these decisions by making our voices heard beyond the voting booth, and letting our representatives know what issues are important to us. The key to reaching your objectives under a democratic government is and has always been--participation!
Contrary to popular belief, representatives and politicians do listen to their constituents. Many legislators are vigilant about tracking their constituents' views and incorporating those views into their decision-making. If you don't speak out, your representatives have no way of knowing whether their actions reflect the views of the people they represent. That's why it's important to advocate for causes you support.
So what is advocacy?
Advocacy is standing up for a person or a cause, it targets key stakeholders and decision makers, and attempts to influence policy, laws, or programs – decisions made in public and private sector institutions. Advocacy activities may be conducted at the national, state, or local level. Bottom line- advocacy is the primary way to influence policy.
ACFB’s Advocacy Champions program was developed to engage, educate and empower community members, agencies, and volunteers to help tell the story of hungry people in their community and educate their leaders on issues related to hunger, food insecurity and poverty.
Many of ACFB’s Advocacy Champions had never contacted one of their elected representatives before becoming involved and don’t think of themselves as being political. ACFB strives to provide Champions with the tools they need. Through an interactive Advocacy Training with ACFB you will be brought up to date on the status of local and federal food policy, brainstorm advocacy strategies, build relationships and coalitions, and practice effective advocacy. If you care about ending hunger, and want to be involved, then we can provide you with information and support you need.
Why become a Champion?
We need Advocacy Champions who can talk passionately about their community, and take action to inform and inspire legislators. This past year, Advocacy Champions have been instrumental in making hundreds of calls related to the Farm Bill, opposing cuts to the SNAP/ Food Stamp program, and encouraging adoption of a state tax-exemption for bulk food purchases. This year, Advocacy Champions will have new opportunities to delve deeper, by attending Food Bank Day at the Capitol, getting to know legislators, and encouraging elected officials to add hunger to their agendas.
We need you! Through your commitment we can and will expand the strength and reach of our anti-hunger message. A commitment to be an Advocacy Champion requires at least one Advocacy Training, prompt response to the Advocacy Teams email request to take action (in some districts, Champions may get ten requests per year and in some districts, they may only receive one or two), and when appropriate (and when you are comfortable) visiting legislators.
You know the needs of your community and you are in the best position to inform legislators. Your voice is the one a legislator should hear when considering policies that will affect your life. You can do something. Your voice means something. Are you willing to make the commitment?