Confronting Women’s Hunger

Women’s groups have come together to bring attention to the gendered nature of the hunger epidemic in the U.S. through the power of art and advocacy with a traveling conversation and immersive exhibit program crossing through dozens of metro areas in 16 months.

This is Hunger, which is part museum exhibit, part theater, offers a unique opportunity for guests to receive a raw and intimate understanding of what hunger truly looks like in America. At the upcoming Los Angeles event, hosted by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger and The National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles and co-sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation, vital conversations will take place regarding the crisis of hunger, as well as what can be done to alleviate the problem in America. Guests will also be able to experience an immersive and interactive exhibit on the hunger epidemic in the U.S. housed in a big-rig.

Especially in Americaa country that promises serving its people with freedom and large portion sizes—it is easy to become distracted from the real issues at hand. The reality is, just like many other countries throughout the world, there exist pertinent issues of poverty and inaccessibility to food.

The 45-minute tours within the truck aim to remove the invisibility of hunger and help people realize that this is not something that we can continue to overlook or pretend does not affect millions of people. As more than 42 million Americans experience hunger today, some guests may be surprised to learn that this is something affecting the lives of their own neighbors and even loved ones.

Women are 35 percent more likely to experience poverty in America today than men. Naama Haviv, Director of Development and Community Relations at MAZON, believes that the key to understanding this event is to acknowledge the fact that hunger is a gendered issue. That’s exactly what the touring exhibition, launched in November, aims to do.

“There are fewer opportunities for advancement for women in America—especially for women of color,” Haviv told Ms., adding that it is no coincidence that women are much more likely to face hunger than men. “There are systemic inequalities which keep certain people from obtaining financial security more than others.”

“This Is Hunger” is important because it defies people’s most commonly held beliefs about hunger. “People are still holding on to this idea that the U.S. is a merit based economy, where if you work hard, everything you need will become available to you,” says Haviv. “This is simply not true.”

Haviv understands that there are many misconceptions about what hunger actually looks like. She herself was once under the impression that hunger was something mostly faced by individuals experiencing homelessness in the streets—in reality, women, children, the elderly and working families struggling to make ends meet are disproportionately facing food insecurity and hunger.

Another misconception that people tend to rely on is the idea that charity efforts are sufficient in alleviating this crisis. However, the money raised for hunger by charities offers less than 10 percent of the response needed to the crisis. Haviv explains that this is not because people are not giving enough or that these charities are not a vital resource, but that it is absolutely necessary that the federal government step in, declaring that “we cannot charity our way out of hunger.”

“This is Hunger” mobilizes participants to take action. They can sign a petition to encourage Speaker Paul Ryan to maintain and strengthen food programs in the U.S. They can help fund MAZON continue its efforts to tour, educate, and mobilize. They are encouraged to go to town hall meetings and let their voices be heard. “This is not a problem that our wallets can solve,” says Haviv. “Only our voices can.”

You can reserve tickets for the Los Angeles exhibition or donate to MAZON to support “This is Hunger” and help educate people the country about the pervasive issue of hunger—one exhibit at a time.

Ciarra Davison is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and an undergrad at UCLA, where she studies English and writes for the Politics section of FEM Newsmagazine. She dedicates her time to standing in solidarity with all oppressed groups and individuals and fighting for equal rights. She also enjoys traveling and dancing while cooking.

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