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Why Are So Many of Our Neighbors Hungry?

Hunger in the Farm-to-Fork Capital

Co-hosted by Village Square Sacramento and Capital Public Radio

The statistics are staggering. In Sacramento County, hunger affects more than 245,000 households, including 88,000 children. Everyday more than 50,000 people struggle to find their next meal. These numbers hold true throughout the region.

“I had a heart attack and lost my job. Having diabetes, you have to be on a pretty strict diet. I can’t afford the food I need. I don’t qualify for food stamps and carbs are what are cheap. You know, the churches can only give so much, and they give to the families that have kids, not to the husband and wife that don’t have kids.” – LaVone O’Leary, recorded at Capital Public Radio’s Hidden Hunger: Storybooth.

Photo credit: Fischphoto.com

Photo credit: Fischphoto.com

This story and other personal testimonies of residents coping with hunger in the Sacramento region were shared at the Hunger in the Farm-to-Fork Capital events on May 13 and June 3, 2015, hosted by the Village Square and Capital Public Radio. Participants – including people directly impacted by hunger, advocates, policymakers, business people and community leaders – gathered to deepen their understanding of the causes and impacts of hunger, hear new perspectives, and be inspired to take action.

What is the value in this type of community conversation? If there’s a problem that needs to be solved, do you get involved? When you hear staggering statistics that seem like they belong more to a country ravaged by war than your own community, what do you do about it? When your neighbors stop talking about important issues that affect your community, where do you turn?

Photo credit: Fischphoto.com

Photo credit: Fischphoto.com

We must be willing to take action. To turn people on to action, we need to feel a connection to the issue, to each other and to our community. Dialogue and understanding are essential first steps to any long-term solution and one of the shared values of the Village Square and Capital Public Radio’s Community Engagement efforts.

Through the Hunger in the Farm-to-Fork Capital conversation series, Village Square and Capital Public Radio created a welcoming space and the opportunity for honest conversation about the tough topic of hunger. We discovered there is a strong desire for this type of community conversation (both events sold out). We also found that residents are eager to deepen their understanding about the causes and impacts of important topics like hunger, and to hear new perspectives and consider solutions that include mobilizing for action.

These were not your average community conversations; it was civic storytelling at its best. This was thoughtful content, open-mindedness, diverse viewpoints and powerful real life stories, many that were told by those experiencing hunger themselves and recorded at Capital Public Radio’s Hidden Hunger: Storybooth.

This is just what Village Square and Capital Public Radio’s Community Engagement efforts are uniquely positioned to do.

Participants commented:

Photo credit: Fischphoto.com

Photo credit: Fischphoto.com

“People living with hunger and poverty are truly just ordinary people.”

“Many that are hungry also have medical issues.”

“We talked at our table about how shocked many people were regarding senior hunger. The face of hunger is often that of a child, but seniors are very at-risk.”

“The middle class is not what it was. We sign a ‘social contract’ early on to get an education, to get trained, to work hard. But even then, we sometimes find ourselves not able to make ends meet to feed our families or ourselves. The social paradigm as we see it is changing.”

“I loved the sense of community fostered at this event, bringing together people from all sectors of the population with different life experiences, beliefs and opinions.”

We were thrilled to hear that attendees gained a sense of community in a whole new way. That people felt more informed, with a deeper personal understanding, and inspired by what transpired. What we saw was participants building relationships and getting motivated to engage in true community problem solving—exactly what these community conversations are designed to do. We hope you will join us next time!

Click here for the May 13 and June 3, 2015 event flyer.

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Graphic Recordings of Lightning Talks at June 3, 2015 event.


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Do You Think Relationship-Building Can Solve Regional Problems? Join us April 30th!

FoxNews and MSNBC – This is where many get their news; not where we solve regional problems.

We solve problems through trusted relationships. When we can rise above our personal biases and work with our neighbor to confront challenges, preferably over a meal, we see firsthand the power of this approach as a means to address tough regional issues.

The Village Square Sacramento creates a friendly space to build relationships across “divides” in opinion and broaden the thinking on tough and complex topics. We do it through a series of engaging, inclusive and fun community forums where we break bread together and model constructive dialogue on matters of local, state and national importance. Building on the success of the national Village Square, we embrace difference of opinion as a tool in finding solutions. The Village Square doesn’t necessarily seek solutions; rather it catalyzes the relationships that can seek solutions.

The most recent Village Square events focused on safety. (Click here to listen to a 5-minute audio clip from the last Dinner at the Square.) We heard from a range of community members whose concerns included sexual assault, financial crimes, road rage, cyber bullying, gang shootings and sex trafficking.

The statistics tell us that violent crime is trending down, yet we talked a lot about fear: Fear of random crimes; racial profiling; concern that strangers will be too fearful to offer help to us, or our children, when in a vulnerable situation; and that when we offer our children a little freedom to make mistakes, our neighbors may think we are neglectful and call child protective services. Participants discussed how they want to move beyond an “us vs. them” mentality and moved toward an improved quality of life. We need to view law enforcement, the homeless and neighbors as all part of one community.

Next up: Homeless. A serious conversation about a serious problem.

Who should care for our homeless neighbors? The government? Nonprofits and churches? Or is it the personal responsibility of the individual experiencing homelessness? Join us on April 30th to learn more about this topic. We’ll hear from leaders in our community working to eradicate homelessness, and from those who have experienced not having a place to call home.

Click here for tickets and more information.