I spend a lot of time working for and within systems that do not really work. I also have spent a fair amount of time researching, and analyzing systems and policies that do not really work. And in the not so distant past I have been the unfortunate victim of systemic policy failure concerning childcare, affordable housing, and healthcare. I seem to be more familiar with policy and program failure, than I am with program success.
In my most recent work I find myself asking a lot of questions no one really wants the answers to. Such as wondering will a Crime Protection Program really reach at-risk youth, or does the program just fund a lot of police overtime pay to staff unwarranted neighborhood watch groups? Will WIC ever establish policies that support mothers and their breastfeeding goals, rather than demoralize new mothers with weight checks, and BMI lectures immediately after the delivery of their children? Will DCF ever be adequately funded to not merely protect children, but actually provide families with resources and tools to protect their own children? Will communities start embracing their schools, so that community colleges are not left with thousands of students unprepared for college?
Recently, I have asked all of these questions to people who may be partially responsible in finding some answers. Truthfully, no one wants to answer them, because the answers are hard, and confusing, and gut checking. The answers require us to make different choices, to undo the status quo, and to support programs that work.
Today I was able to be a very small hand in supporting a program that works. And it was brilliant; because I needed to know we could still make a difference. Today, my littlest tiny human and I handed out fresh corn on the cob to families in our community. We volunteered for a little over an hour at a mobile food pantry. Any family that decided they needed or wanted some fresh fruits, vegetables and protein options could show up at our local community college and collect a box of FRESH groceries, for free. There was very, very, very little paper work, there was no income eligibility requirements, and most importantly there was no stigma. In a little under an hour over 70 families went home with corn, carrots, squash, cucumber, bread, turnip, eggs, chicken, onion, apples, pork, and more.
What I saw, what I already knew, and needed a gut checking reminder of, was that need comes in all ages, all genders, and all races. Hungry is not defined by a stereotype, and with a little ingenuity it is pretty easy to feed the families in our communities.