Earlier this week, I got to spend the day in Eau Claire with over 100 volunteers from food pantries throughout West Central Wisconsin at the Feed My People Food Bank Partner Agency Conference which took place at Trinity Lutheran Church.
Feed My People Food Bank really knows how to get value out of their engagements - they had me do a general talk about hunger and poverty in Wisconsin and how local partners are making a difference, then a media interview, then a session on improving your food, friends and funds through storytelling, and finally a session on state and federal food policies.
It was a long day but also energizing. Being able to meet and learn from so many committed, passionate Hunger Fighters in local communities throughout the state is just incredibly inspiring. These engagements with local pantries and volunteers throughout the state are the favorite part of my job.
At the breakfast and lunch sessions, I sat at a table with a church group from Fountain City in Buffalo County. They were inspired to start a a food pantry in their community by a young lady had recently started a weekend backpack program for children. Backpack programs provide food for children during the weekend when they are out of school.
They told me that originally this program was only supposed to be a one-off but the demand in the community was so high, it has grown into a regular community supported program.
As I later learned, this inspiring young lady was someone I had met earlier in the day who I was paired with in my storytelling session to share a story. Rather than telling me about the program she started, she told me a story about how she bagged her first buck on a hunting trip with her dad. It was a twelve-pointer - pretty impressive by any measure - but maybe not as impressive as starting a program that fights child hunger at a hunger fighting conference.
Whether she was just being humble or she unwittingly buried the lede, I thought that this was remarkably telling about the kind of people who volunteer to fight hunger in local communities throughout the state.
It’s just what they do. It's nothing that special. They see a problem and they do something about it.
But along the way, their choice for action inspires others to get involved, like the church group that was inspired by this young lady to start fighting hunger themselves.
This is why I love this part of my job - learning about those moments of inspiration and what gets people going to join us in our mission to help our food banks fight hunger, improve health, and strengthen local communities. It gives me hope.