During the height of the Great Recession, Steve Summers saw how the economic downturn was forcing families to struggle and causing food insecurity rates to spike. He too was impacted after losing his job and, eventually, his apartment.
Though he had been volunteering in the Food Bank’s warehouse for years, he heard about our advocacy work and thought, “I could really have a voice here.” Since then, Summers has been a non-stop anti-hunger advocate, traveling to Sacramento and encouraging others to join in the movement against hunger and poverty.
How has being an anti-hunger advocate affected your view of hunger and poverty?
The thing about being so impacted by the recession and the alleged recovery is that you can really feel stigmatized and think, “I can’t believe this is happening.” When you start to advocate, your realize there are thousands of people in your position. You realize that hunger and poverty is a function of our economic and our political system—it’s not about personal failings.
Hunger and poverty is a function of our economic and political system—it’s not about personal failings.
What are you most proud of?
The highlights are the successful policy changes that immediately get food into people’s hands, including the recent repeal of the CalWORKs Maximum Family Grant. Also, seeing the political system firsthand is rewarding. I come away thinking, “With enough numbers, this could really make a difference.”
How do you handle frustrations? When bills or budget items don’t get through—what keeps you going?
Try to turn it into action. Ending hunger and poverty is a long-term goal. That’s also why we’re always looking for a new generation of people to keep carrying this forward.
Which historical figure do you admire most?
Astronomy is one of my hobbies and I’ve always admired Galileo. He discovered scientific proof that the earth revolved around the sun which went against a lot of the teachings of the time. Still, he spoke the truth and they locked him away under house arrest for the rest of his life. I admire him for speaking truth to power.
If someone doesn’t have time to travel to Sacramento, can they still be an anti-hunger advocate?
Yes! As a voter, a tax payer, or a Californian, you already have the right to be an advocate. You can advocate by email, phone, or drop by representatives’ district offices and talk to a staffer.
As a voter, a tax payer, or a Californian, you already have the right to be an advocate.
This is one of the great things about the Food Bank’s Speak Up Project, which is a free advocacy institute that gives people the tools to advocate and be leaders in the movement to end hunger.
What are your best State Capitol travel tips?
Drink plenty of water and bring sunscreen! Also, on any given day in the Capitol, there are going to be a ton of other advocacy groups. Talk to them! They’ll be interested in your issue, and you’ll be interested in theirs. It’s unifying to see everyone involved in issues they care about.
We need your voice! Visit our advocacy page to learn how you can support our advocacy work.