Becoming advocates for the hungry in Arkansas

Mary Lewis Dassinger of the 200,000 Reasons initiative, left, visited with Senator Missy Irvin, a fellow United Methodist, on Hunger Lobby Day at the State Capitol.
COURTESY PHOTO

Advocacy gives opportunities for people of faith to ensure the hungry are not forgotten by those who have tremendous power to effect change.

The Arkansas Conference’s 200,000 Reasons to Fight Childhood Hunger initiative asks United Methodists around the state not only to imagine what life is like for hungry children and put faith into action by providing ministries to help reduce hunger, but also to become advocates for change, recognizing that it takes many partners working together to alleviate hunger in Arkansas.

Mary Lewis Dassinger, project coordinator for 200,000 Reasons, on Feb. 15 joined other volunteers and representatives from hunger relief agencies who are passionate about relieving the suffering of the hungry for Hunger Lobby Day at the State Capitol. Hosted by the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, the group gathered to let state legislators know that hunger relief in Arkansas is important to their constituents and needed in their districts. There is no district untouched by hunger.

“We found that there are legislative leaders who are fellow advocates, encouraging their peers to do more,” Dassinger said, noting that the group heard several legislators speak. Senator Larry Teague (D-Nashville) said that Arkansas produces too much food for anyone to have to go hungry in our state, especially children. Senator Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) and Rep. Eddie Armstrong (D-North Little Rock) offered ideas of how their colleagues can help by encouraging participation in different programs in their districts, such as Hunters for the Hungry and Breakfast in the Classroom. The three legislators are among the co-chairs of the Arkansas Hunger Caucus.

How can you begin to advocate for the hungry? Write, email or call your legislator. Find your legislator’s contact information on www.arkleg.state.ar.us.

– Respect their time and say:

  • Who you are and why hunger relief is important to you.
  • That 200,000 Reasons is an initiative of the United Methodists of Arkansas that seeks to have 100 percent of our churches participating in hunger relief ministries.
  • That Arkansas ranks among the highest in the nation in household and childhood food insecurity. Share the food insecurity rate of their counties.

– Ask them to:

  • Remember the hungry and help provide relief when legislation comes before them.
  • Advocate for hunger relief programs in their district.
  • Consider becoming a member of the Arkansas Hunger Caucus if they are not already.