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Policy and progress: Food justice in Indiana

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Bread for the World Indiana and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus partnered to host an afternoon discussion surrounding food injustices Feb. 15 at the Indiana Government Center.

The Food Justice and Faith Community Teach In and Listening Session aimed to offer an afternoon of learning about food insecurity, food sovereignty and justice for Black farmers and children.

RELATED: Pacers, City of Indianapolis, multiple community partners unveil Drive & Dish to combat food insecurity

“When we think about the disparities, we have to always remember there has always been a God, that there has always been a way for people of African descent to make a way with our leadership,” said Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith with Bread for the World.

Bread for the World Indiana is a collective Christian voice urging the state and the nation’s decision-makers to end hunger at home and abroad.

Working through churches, campuses and other organizations, Bread for the World informs and equips people to advocate for local and federal legislation that will help end hunger and poverty.

In Marion County, the majority of food assistance going to families is not from pantries, church meals or local nonprofits; the majority of assistance keeping families afloat is from SNAP (formerly food stamps) and school meals, both of which are governmental programs with budgets that are constantly changing, said Rep. Gregory Porter, former president of IBLC.

“We only give $3 million to food banks in the state of Indiana. I pushed it for three years. It wasn’t until about four years ago that we moved it up to a million, and two years ago it moved up to two. We’re trying to go to at least $3 million a year,” said Porter.

During the discussion, the organizations’ faith leaders spoke about finding solutions to addressing food injustices through public policies of Pan-African solidarity, story and leadership throughout the 2024 election season. 

Rep. Earl Harris Jr. said he and a couple of food advocates met with the education committee to talk about HB 1066.

The bill creates a hunger-free campus grant program that would be run by the Commission for Higher Education.

“I was naïve in thinking we’re probably talking about 3% or 5% of students in need because it was something I really didn’t experience in my college education,” said Harris.

“It is 40% of students affected by hunger on campus, and this was one of those moments where I dropped my mouth open. It had an impact on me, and it really just increased the amount of effort I want to put into this.”

Harris said when talking about lack of food and homelessness with college students, one must wonder how much brain power the state could lose on future leaders if these issues are not solved.

Curtis Whitaker, pastor of Progressive Community Church in Gary, Indiana, said he received a vision from God about growing food to help his community. He said he did not know what he was doing but initially his church started gardening on a small scale.

“Now, we have over 200 people come out and grow with us and help us build these wind tunnels that we have. Today, we grow about 40,000 pounds of food,” said Whitaker.

Alongside Bread for the World and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, other organizations like Faith Farms and Orchard, the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Indianapolis (IMA), Christian Theological Seminary, and Faith, Hope, and Love International were in attendance.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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