|From left to right, Jody Blaylock, Kate Maehr, Kamil Walton, Ulondia Johnson and Suzy Lee, outside Rep. Robin Kelly's office on Capitol Hill.|
More than any other year, I was absolutely inspired and amazed by my experience at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference this past week. The Food Depository brought almost 30 advocates to the conference – the largest group we’ve ever assembled. It was incredible to see the group learning about advocacy and brainstorming better ways to serve those in need. But on Tuesday, one brave act struck me as the defining moment of our trip.
I was joined by Ulondia Johnson, a Food Depository advocate from a South Side member agency, in our meeting with Rep. Robin Kelly’s staff on Capitol Hill. Ulondia and the rest of the advocates were asked to bring a few client stories with them to the meetings to share with lawmakers. Instead of telling a client story, Ulondia told her own story.
Ulondia is a single mother living in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood and was making her first trip to Washington. She has struggled with hunger intermittently for years and currently is the assistant lead teacher and cook at the Golden Gate Day Care Center. She also receives SNAP. Her life has been a constant battle to take care of her children and afford food. As she told her story to Rep. Kelly’s staff, she began to cry.
“I have experienced hunger,” she said. “It’s hard when you don’t have enough to eat.”
Ulondia was incredibly brave to tell her story to total strangers. To me, her courage defines what the trip to Washington is all about: raising our voice. Ulondia raised her voice using her own story to make a lasting impact. On Tuesday, 30 Food Depository advocates collectively raised their voice in Washington, D.C.
Whether it was with stories, statistics or personal experiences, our message is clear and it is strong: no one should go hungry in our community.
Read the other entries in the Why I Advocate series here.