U.S. Congresswoman Aynna Pressley recently submitted community testimony from the Food Insecurity Convening she held at the Zumix Firehouse in East Boston back in July.
The community testimony was transmitted to the White House ahead of the White House’s Upcoming Hunger Summit and was the result of a day-long convening in Eastie with Project Bread, constituents, local leaders and advocates in East Boston.
Pressley said the convening came at the request of the White House ahead of its conference on hunger later this year and the submitted testimony will inform the Biden Administration on how it can address the crisis of food insecurity across the nation.
“We must continue to provide solutions that are rooted in the reality of those who experience hunger and hardship firsthand, and that means centering the families that suffered food insecurity long before the global pandemic,”. Pressley wrote in a letter to the White House along with the testimony. “It was an honor to host this listening session in my District and it is my hope that our shared constituents’ lived experiences and expertise will aid the White House Task Force in crafting a transformational roadmap to ending hunger once and for all.”
The Eastie convening consisted of three panels featuring testimony from community members, providers, advocates, academics, and elected officials.
Recommendations made by the panelists include providing increased and sustained financial support to our most vulnerable communities, while reducing bureaucratic barriers to access; emphasizing universalism and equity in policy solutions to address the structural factors that perpetuate hunger; removing barriers and reducing stigma associated with hunger and assistance program participation; expanding eligibility regardless of immigration status and focusing on continuity of benefits for families, especially those with young people in the household.
“Our first panel of community members with lived experience spoke about the importance of
continued and increased support to our most vulnerable communities without strings attached,” said Pressley. “They offered their personal stories as a way to illustrate systemic issues perpetuating food insecurity for their families and their communities. Panelists from East Boston to Hyde Park discussed supporting existing small community-based groups to do this work, leveraging the trust built up among neighbors, and allowing for flexible money and resources to meet the need. The value of large-scale organizations who work on food security is undeniable, but what seems to be missing from these efforts is the power in the hands of those who are experiencing food insecurity. In community-based organizations, communities can bring unique perspectives and voices to the decision-making table, allowing them to get feedback and significantly impact change.”
Pressley added, “Our advocates, academics, and local elected officials stressed removing barriers and reducing stigma associated with hunger and assistance program participation; expanding eligibility regardless of immigration status; and focusing on continuity of benefits for families, especially those with young people in the household.”
Pressley said there was also broad agreement that stabilizing families’ economic situation is critical to addressing long-term food insecurity, which includes recommendations to raise the federal minimum wage, expand the Federal Child Credit, invest in affordable housing, and ensure high-quality affordable childcare options for every family.
Joining Pressley and Project Bread at the Eastie discussion were State Senator Lydia Edwards, Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo, Boston City Councilor Gabriela Coletta, Boston City Councilor At-Large Erin Murphy, La Colaborativa, Greater Boston Food Bank, YMCA of Greater Boston, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, Community Action Agency of Somerville, Eastie Farm, Chelsea Public School District, and community members from the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District.
In October, Pressley joined Congressman James P. McGovern (MA-02) and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) at a press conference to unveil legislation that would start the process of convening a national White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health.
Pressley has also led efforts to extend the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) child nutrition waiver authority, which has allowed millions of children in Massachusetts and across the nation to access free and healthy school meals during the pandemic. She delivered a floor speech renewing her calls for its extension last month and applauded the House’s passage of legislation to do so later that month.