Giving and Leading: #ImagineASolution Hunger Awareness Campaign

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#ImagineASolution is an effort to create a discussion of hunger in Arizona and to involve people in finding a solution. Five videos have been created to help do that. The first is a general overview of hunger featuring people like Congresswoman Kirsten Sinema, who struggled with hunger as a child. Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association, and Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Arizona Association of Food Banks, will tell us more.

TED SIMONS: Hashtag Imagine A Solution is an effort to create a discussion of hunger in Arizona and to involve people in finding a solution. Here with more, we welcome representatives from the groups that created the campaign, Cynthia Zwick, executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association and Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Arizona Association of Food Banks. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us.

TED SIMONS: Imagine a solution. What are we talking about here?

CYNTHIA ZWICK: Well, we're really talking about a campaign that's intended to raise awareness about the issues facing so many of our Arizona communities. The inability to have enough food to eat and so we're really reaching out to the community and asking them to help us identify solutions to this huge problem here in Arizona.

TED SIMONS: And doing so by way of five videos focusing on stories? Talk to us about that.

ANGIE RODGERS: In developing the campaign we recognized the far reaching effects of hunger. So we thought about some major areas that were impacted by hunger starting with hunger and the prevalence. - 1 in 5 Arizonans, 1 in 4 children, 1 in 7 seniors. We then took that to say -- talking about what impact that would have, hunger and education, hunger and healthcare, snap and the impact that snap has as well as the economy.

TED SIMONS: So with these videos, where will they be shown?

CYNTHIA ZWICK: Well, we're distributing them through a variety of places. We're using a lot of social media. We're hoping that some of the TV stations are going to pick us up. We've developed some PSAs in addition. YouTube will always hold them and our website obviously will focus on it. So we're really trying to push them out as much as we can through a variety of means and we're really asking those who are engaged in the campaign to help us with that, to help us imagine a solution and share the videos, as well.

TED SIMONS: Is there a target audience for these videos?

ANGIE RODGERS: There's not a target audience but I think we've number of partner organizations, whether that be the food marketers alliance, the groceries, the restaurant association, Blue Cross Blue Shield, a number of partners that we're hoping their audiences see the video, as well.

TED SIMONS: The goal is to create a discussion of hunger in Arizona. Give us more of an explanation. I mean, creating a discussion of hunger in Arizona. What does that mean?

ANGIE RODGERS: I think for me it meant I have this growing discontent about acceptability of hungry and recognizing some level of acceptability when you walk into a classroom, how many children is it okay that go hungry that night? And I think we heard that from so many of our partners, that we wanted to be able to feed kids and feed them well. And what is it going to take for us to get there?

TED SIMONS: Is that how you see it as well? There are discussions regarding hunger in Arizona but are some of those discussions just -- are people just not paying attention anymore?

CYNTHIA ZWICK: Well, I don't know if it's that people aren't paying attention. There's been a lot of discussion around poverty and the impact that it has, and I think one of the serious impacts is people going hungry. But we think it gets overlooked often and when we see things happening at the state level to sort of diminish support for families that need help, we think it needs more and more attention. As Angie said, I don't want to be the one who has to decide who gets to eat and who doesn't if I am a teacher in a class room. And I want to have kids who can focus and learn. The problem is with so many children going hungry, it affects all aspects of their life. It affects their health, it affects their ability to learn, it affects their ability to contribute to the economy down the road. So it's an issue that needs continuous discussion and more done to help resolve it.

Ted SIMONS: And again, one of the goals is to involve people to find a solution. How do you involve these people? Who are these people? What kind of solution are you looking for?

ANGIE RODGERS: Well, we're not going to be exclusionary at all. We hope every Arizonian will participate in this public awareness campaign. Again, our efforts are focused day to day on feeding people, what we consider feeding the line in our food banks but we also want to engage people in shortening the line. What can we do to make sure folks aren't in food bank service areas to begin with?

TED SIMONS: I was reading about this and found the phrase "food insecurity". What does that mean?

ANGIE RODGERS: The way that food insecurity is defined is lack of a regular source of healthy and nutritious foods to be able to lead an active life. While we may be able to distribute, kids maybe have access to a bag of Doritos on a day to day basis, I think all of us would agree that is not nutrition.

TED SIMONS: Indeed just this limited and uncertain availability, a lot of it going on out there isn't there?

CYNTHIA ZWICK: There's a lot going on. We were talking earlier there's 1 million people right now on snap or formerly known as food stamps in Arizona. The food banks are able to feed 128,000 of those people a week. There's this huge number of people who don't know where their next meal is going to come from, they're not getting three meals a day necessarily and as Angie indicated, they're not nutritious. So we're trying to make sure people understand what the issues are so we can find resources and solutions and have a discussion that's bigger than the discussion that's been going on.

TED SIMONS: Does the discussion include other factors? Healthcare costs, for example? The local economy? Does it include everything under that umbrella or is it target only to food?

CYNTHIA ZWICK: It includes everything. If people are hungry, it affects every aspect of their life. We talked about it affecting kids in school. It does affect health. One of the doctors in one of the videos talks about how we think of hunger as just the inability to eat but what we're seeing is they're not eating nutritious foods. There's a lot of obesity that's coming about, diabetes is a growing concern so health issues become huge and that's a cost to the community, as well. And then in the economy, if you're not -- if you're not able to get a good education and move on, get a good job, you're not contributing the way you would like to or that we would like everyone to be able to.

TED SIMONS: You mentioned education, you both have mentioned kids. The impact of education on this issue?

ANGIE RODGERS: Yeah, well, I think so much of what we know is hungry kids can't learn. If you have a child sitting in a classroom who is not prepared to start his work that day, they may be distracted, they may have behavior issues. They're seeing the nurse more often but we've talked with teacher after teacher -- one of the videos you see Dr. Smith talked about kids that come to him and say I haven't eaten this week or I haven't eaten over the weekend and what can we do to be making sure that those kids get access to healthy meals?

TED SIMONS: Is there a solution? Is a solution to hunger in Arizona possible?

ANGIE RODGERS: We absolutely believe so. I think there's no magic bullet. I think it's going to take all of us. Again, it's going to involve us looking at just immediately feeding people today, to looking at what solutions can be for a greater economy for everyone tomorrow.

TED SIMONS: Because people hear this and they think they've heard this before and you hear about fighting, you know, hunger. But a solution to hunger, that sounds pretty bold.

CYNTHIA ZWICK: Well, yeah, I think it is pretty bold but the reality is there's a couple of things that we know will help. Living wages in Arizona will help and if families, two thirds of the poor are working, but they're working in low-wage jobs so 25% of the jobs in Arizona as an example are low-wage jobs. If we have living wages for all of the folks that are working, they can make ends meet and they're not going to be hungry, they're not going to need assistance or the snap program. That's a piece of it. Education is clearly another piece of it. We know there are solutions. And we're just looking for additional ways to identify them and come up with some creative discussion.

TED SIMONS: And last question, how does this effort differ from other efforts? In fighting hunger or finding a solution to hunger? What's different about this?

ANGIE RODGERS: Again, we came at this with -- we don't have all the solutions. I think so many campaigns come with an end game, raising funds, always a great strategy. A campaign that has an end result. We're really looking at this as we want to come to the table, invite the conversation, encourage people to look at hunger in a different way and look at your neighborhood possibly in a different way.

TED SIMONS: And again, it's imagine a solution, and you can go online, you've got the hash tag, the whole nine yards.

CYNTHIA ZWICK: We do. You can go to both of our websites and imagine a solution.

TED SIMONS: Very good. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

TED SIMONS: Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear about a study that supports the governors education funding plan. And Arizona's poet laurate Alberto Rios talks about his latest book of poetry. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Virginia G. piper charitable trust, committed to changing lives, and strengthening community through investments in nonprofits and strategic initiatives. More information at pipertrust.org.

Cynthia Zwick: Executive Director of the Arizona Community Action Association, Angie Rodgers: President and CEO of the Arizona Association of Food Banks

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