ACCFB Goes to Sacramento for Hunger Action Day!

Tuesday, April 30, was Hunger Action Day! We reached out to our Policy & Partnerships team to ask them about the big day.

ACCFB: What is the history of Hunger Action Day? How long has ACCFB gone? How has the event changed over the years?

Ezer Pamintuan, Senior Policy Advocate: The origins of Hunger Action Day are clouded in obscurity, given the haze of time. Depending on who you ask, the first Hunger Action Day might have been 25 years ago, or maybe 30 years ago!

Whenever it started, for as long as any of us can remember, anti-hunger advocates from across the state, as part of the California Hunger Action Coalition (which ACCFB helped found decades ago), have been gathering in Sacramento on an annual basis to hold elected officials accountable for ending hunger and poverty. The way this has looked has changed over the years; not only has the number of participants grown over time (this year, over 160 people showed up in front of the Capitol Building!), but we have had to be flexible as circumstances changed. From 2020 through 2023, Hunger Action Day was made wholly virtual, with participants joining legislative meetings and events through Zoom. During those intervening years, Hunger Action Day was also temporarily stretched out to a full Hunger Action Week, to take advantage of the flexibility of Zoom. But this year, for the first time in half a decade, Hunger Action Day was in person at the front steps of the State Capitol once again!

ACCFB: What was the goal of Hunger Action Day?

Jocelyn Vera, Community Organizer: Our goal for Hunger Action Day was to center the voices of our local community’s decision making and remind our policymakers about the needs and strengths of our communities. For our team was very important to have representation and participation from communities of color and other impacted populations like seniors, college students, especially people with lived experienced in food insecurity and hunger who often are excluded from decision making. We recognize that the only way to end hunger in our communities is by having a places and spaces where our community get a change to uplift their voice and remind our elected officials about the consequences of cutting funding of programs who have been working in decreasing food insecurity as well as reminding them about who are the populations keep being excluded from food receiving food.

As part of our goal to raise awareness about hunger in our local communities and advocate for policy solutions, we also invited agency partners since they play an essential role in the community. Having agency partners be part of Hunger Action Day was powerful because they are the ones directly serving our communities and are the ones who see the day-to-day need and the positive impact that the food bank is making on our communities.

ACCFB: Who are some of the elected officials that we met with? Do we have existing relationships with them?

Ezer: At the opening rally, I introduced and presented the annual Hunger Fighter Award to our very own Senator Nancy Skinner, who gave the keynote speech. Sen. Skinner has been a long-time champion of our anti-hunger work, notably leading California’s historic 2021 victory in making universally-free school meals permanent.

Ezer and Senator Nancy Skinner at the podium at Hunger Action Day

ACCFB attendees also met with Assemblymember Mia Bonta herself. This was particularly exciting, as Assemblymember Bonta this year is championing our Food as Medicine legislative work. I also led legislative meetings with the staff members of Senator Aisha Wahab (who represents South Alameda County), Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (who represents inland Alameda County), Assemblymember Alex Lee (who represents South Alameda County), and Assemblymember Liz Ortega, who represents the San Leandro/San Lorenzo/Hayward area. In fact, our ACCFB group of almost 50 people was so large that we didn’t even have enough space at our meetings with East Bay elected officials! Thankfully, our coalition partners from San Diego and Orange County graciously welcomed many from our group to join their meetings with SoCal legislators. Some of us even visited the office of Governor Gavin Newsom! ACCFB’s voice was truly heard state-wide!

ACCFB: Can you share a story or talking point that resonated with someone we met with?

Jessica Montes, Government Affairs Officer: One powerful story that a community member shared during our visit to Assemblymember Liz Ortega’s office was regarding her lived experience being unhoused. This community member shared details that are often overlooked like policies and regulations that many shelter homes have. These regulations may include prohibiting individuals from bringing in certain types of foods to cook in the shelter home or limiting the number of items they can bring in overnight. This creates a cost burden for individuals as they must spend more money on hot meals to eat elsewhere as they are not allowed to cook inside the shelter homes. The community member’s story seemed to have an impact on the representative that was hosting our meeting but most impactful was her courage to share her lived experience.

ACCFB: What was your favorite part of the day?

Aliza Kazmi, Director of Policy and Partnerships: One highlight of the day was really taking in how many people on our bus raised their hands to show who had never been to Sacramento/a lobby day before. It was important to our team to specifically bring folks like that and make sure that our diverse group really felt what the day was truly about: our community and the impact of our lived experiences and voices on our representatives (who we elect and pay through our tax dollars).

A HUGE shoutout to Jocelyn and Ezer for all their hard work leading up to and on the day. Together, we ensured that it was a meaningful space for community-building as well as advocacy. Seeing participants’ engagement and excitement to keep building power with us, I know that the success of HAD 2024 will help take us far with our voter engagement, organizing and advocacy this year and beyond. Thank you to all staff who joined and supported us. Go team!

Jocelyn: My favorite part of Hunger Action Day was to see our community members – our community leaders – taking the lead and sharing their stories, holding their power, and transmitting the reality of what is happening in their community.

When I see our community feeling empowered and speaking truth to power, it makes me proud and hopeful because we need more inclusive spaces to break the persistent power dynamic between policymakers and our impacted communities. We need to remind and make our community know they have the power to change the narrative about hunger, about what is being told about their communities, and to influence policy, as well as proposing solutions.

ACCFB: Anything else you’d like to add?

Jocelyn: For many of our staff, community members, and agency partners it was their first time participating in Hunger Action Day, attending a lobby meeting, and sharing their story to their elected official. During our storytelling training, on our way to Sacramento, and in lobby meetings, and on our way back I could feel how people’s emotions shifted from frustration, sadness, excitement to relief. The simple act of telling our story is political, represents resistance against repression, a product of self- recognition, and serves as a healing practice for our communities who are often oppressed and negatively impacted by unjust policies.

Ezer: At these meetings, we lifted up the importance of providing funding to California’s food banks so that we can continue to distribute nutritious meals to the community; increasing the minimum monthly CalFresh benefit; expanding nutrition benefits to all regardless of immigration status; and keeping California’s promise of permanent universally-free school meals. The timing of Hunger Action Day is critical because over the next few weeks, the Governor and State Legislature will be finalizing the state budget for the fiscal year starting in July, so it’s so important for us to ensure that critical nutrition programs that fight hunger and poverty are fully funded! Join our efforts by sending a message to your own legislators! And don’t miss the next opportunity to take action by signing up for Advocacy Action Alerts.