Celebrating the first H-FLI Cohort!

by Alison Killeen

This past weekend, 12 Hunger-Free Leadership Institute Fellows gathered in Columbia Park in North Portland to commemorate our time together, share our key learnings and insights from the program with each other, and decide how we will continue to gather and take action on food justice together.

When the Hunger-Free Leadership Institute launched in October 2016, we hoped that the knowledge, relationships and access the organization could offer would be beneficial to the personal and professional growth of the Fellows. On Saturday, they shared some of the highlights and takeaways from the last eight months we spent together. Many of their observations about how they grew over the course of the year can be summarized into three themes:

Developing Identity as an Activist

  • “I have realized even more clearly that being a person who advocates for food justice is an integral part of who I am.” – Alison DeLancey
  • “It was great to go to the Hunger-Free Oregon Day of Action and realize I have my own story that is worth sharing in the discussion about people who need food assistance.” – Ben Carr
  • “H-FLI has helped strengthen my resolve to fight against hunger within the community. I also learned ways to include my children into the process, and look forward to continuing engaging with them and my cohort on doing good within the community.” – Anonymous

Demystifying Advocacy and Community Engagement

  • “Community involvement is essential. We can all have a direct effect on local policy and politics, we just need to learn how, what, when, where, who, and to have a advocacy community supporting us in our efforts. H-FLI made advocacy and policy work seem more accessible to me.” – Jen Carter
  • “[I learned] how to engage with legislators. [The curriculum] really demystified state government and advocacy and how to get involved.” – Olivia Percoco
  • “I learned the most from other fellows and in talking to people about their experiences. I remember starting out talking about food experiences as feeling awkward. Now these are conversations that I bring to the table at work when sharing meals with children. My questions that I use during meal time are much richer and it is a way for all of us to share our eating experiences, even when the audience is only three to five years old.” – Kirstin Juul

Understanding Hunger as an Equity Issue

  • “[One of my key takeaways from the Institute is] how institutional racism and federal policy has played such a large role in the continuing hunger problem in this country.” – Angie Stapleton
  • “I would be interested in doing a data analysis or breakdown looking at the difference of use between Asian and Pacific Islanders, or if that data is not available, determine what barriers exist to disaggregate the data.“ – Jackie Leung
  • “Equity plays into health disparities and… food insecurity and equity are as much public health issues as they are issues for the anti-hunger advocacy groups to work on. Effectiveness of public health is undermined if we don’t address food insecurity and the other social determinants—housing, transportation, etc.!” – Olivia Percoco

In his reflections, H-FLI Fellow Paul Delurey posed a final question:

“There is just so much to know, not just this example, but all of life around us. And so much of what we need to know does not seem to be fundamental to a satisfying life. What is the answer? What IS fundamental knowledge? Luckily, I can hand that off to the second cohort.”

To Paul’s point, applications for the 2017-2018 H-FLI cohort will open in mid-June! Stay tuned by following us on Facebook and checking back on our HFLI page.