By Kristin McMahon, Communications & Development Supervisor
Before you can organize a movement to cure complex societal ills, it’s good to eat. The Hunger Coalition has been providing access to fresh groceries for folks who can’t afford it for nearly twenty years. In that time, we’ve learned that change starts with a good meal. We’ve learned that the more color on your plate, the higher you can jump, the longer you can persevere. We’ve learned that the connections we make with one another help us tackle our greatest challenges and that our leadership needs to come from the ground up.
We’ve also learned that a movement takes time, trust, and tenacity to build and so, we built Bloom Community Food Center to get started.
For seventeen years, we operated out of a sterile building that lacked color. Our building resembled the typical food bank — the institutional feel, the crowded waiting space, long lines, and an excess of canned food that was only compounding the emotional state of our friends in crisis. In response to this feedback, we launched Bloom Community Food Center.
This is a place full of really good, free food, edible gardens everywhere, lots of color, art, and really fun people.
Every participant we work with is someone outside of their crisis, but in the urgency of their situation, they might lose touch with who that is. We’ve learned that being in a colorful, multicultural center full of plant life and good food is the right place to reconnect with ourselves.
When you’re somewhere beautiful where you feel welcome, it’s easier to open up. When you’re alongside hundreds of other people facing a similar struggle, you feel understood. And when you’re surrounded by food, art, and life that reflects who you are, you feel seen.
We’re now in a better place — mentally and physically — to bring together the working people of our community and more fully address the root causes of hunger. To kick off the revolution, we invited five muralists to paint the walls of our Food Center in June.
When they arrived at our building, it all clicked. After years of dreaming of what Bloom Community Food Center could be, it just was. Staff, participants, and artists filled the place with a tidal wave of creativity, color, and laughter. In one week, murals went up on the walls while guest chefs cooked squash soup, causa, lasagna, posole verde, and apple pie. Each day, everyone would break from their work to sit down together and eat. Tables included volunteers and participants, community action groups, staff, police folks off the clock, and artists — though, at the table, titles were much less important than what was on our plates.
Now with art on the walls, food at the table, and hundreds of people by our side, we’re in a good place to take action. We are in a place to build unity and trust within a community that has been systematically deprived of basic human needs. Food. Shelter. Health. Safety. Justice.
After a year like 2020, we’ve seen the formidable power of collective action. We’re seeing what happens when millions of voices around the world speak out in harmony for a common cause. No matter how strong the convictions of a single person, it’s not until we combine our voices that we can reach the volume needed to bend an ear.
This new setting helps us act fearlessly and raise our voices about issues that lead to hunger. We have only just begun and are hoping to learn from those who have gone before us. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208-788-0121 to share your experience or to join in from wherever you are. Onward.
“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” — Tanzanian Proverb