A Jewish anti-hunger activist engaged children and adults in separate appearances at Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor on Jan. 11.
Rabbi Erin Glazer, senior engagement officer at Mazon-A Jewish Response to Hunger, urged both audiences to lobby lawmakers on hunger issues, in keeping with her organization’s relatively new thrust into legislative and policy issues.
“Mazon is not a direct service provider,” she told the adults. “We are an advocacy organization that works to look at the big picture and find ways to address the hunger issue in the most effective and largest way possible — to support organizations doing on-the-ground [work] and figure out what policies are needed and exist and need to be funded at higher levels.”
In her talk to sixth- and seventh-graders, Glazer discussed the pending reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, and asked the children to write messages why it is important for kids to get enough to eat. She told them she would bring them to Congress.
Later, speaking with adults, she emphasized the importance of public programs like the SNAP food stamp program and WIC, which provides milk and food for pregnant and nursing women and for children. The budgets of both programs have been cut by Congress; the result, she said, is that “the number of people struggling is increasing every year by exponential numbers.”
Her appearance was cosponsored by the synagogue and Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (see sidebar).
In her presentation to the children, Glazer challenged students to create nutritious meals for $1.50 per meal, the figure allotted under SNAP. For the adults, Glazer handed out cards describing the range of individuals who use the SNAP program, from those with disabilities, to retired seniors, to people who have lost well-paying jobs.
“There is not a lack of food; there is a lack of political will. We have the resources in America; we lack the will to distribute resources, like SNAP, school meals, and larger government programs that can help millions of people until they can get back on their feet and help themselves,” she said. “Most people are on the SNAP program for a set period of time and then can step out and take care of their families on their own.”
Best known for asking Jews to donate three percent of the cost of their weddings and b’nei mitzva parties to the hungry, Mazon has increased its national education and advocacy work. At the state level, the Mazon Advocacy Project is partnering with local organizations on issues like school lunches.
Said Glazer: “We need to address immediate needs and change the system so that the food pantry will be empty the next day…and we can look to a tomorrow when people won’t be hungry.”