Love Your Neighbors. Talk to Your Legislators. — The Rev. Carolyn Hetrick

Today I got to help represent our work here in Centre County and across Pennsylvania, and learn more about/support the work at a Lunch & Learn event hosted by the Legislative Hunger Caucus and the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition (PHAC), which includes Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania. As soon as I said I was connected to feeding Ministry in State College, some immediately assumed “students.” There I was, the Lutheran pastor from Happy Valley reframing perceptions about home. While there is an effort to feed university students, I could paint the picture of who we feed: working families, university employees, graduate students, school employees, nursing home staff, folks in restaurants and social services, veterans whose benefits run short and those caregiving for elders who cannot afford other care. Talking about lack of affordable housing, transportation costs and tough choices.
While it is said there is no one face of hunger, today was time to paint a picture of the faces and invite someone to come and see their constituents. Because no one gets in a food line for fun. I could talk about neighbors taking turns getting food for each other so others could take care of what they had to. And at one point had 5 people who never expected to chat with me today listening and nodding heads. While that alone will not change everything all at once, the more we can actually see people and not problems, the closer we get to meaningful governing. The more we become a people who are anti-hunger.
Because of my own experiences, I could talk urban hunger, rural hunger and surprising suburban hunger and share war stories with others about when we didn’t have money what we had done to make meals.
I chatted with my two state legislators and reached out to a third who was kind enough to let me know a schedule change kept us from connecting face to face. I also had a chance to chat with legislators from NE Pa and SW Pa, both of which are areas  I have also lived or served. Afterwards, PHAC provided a lunch, similar to what students receive at summer meals sites. And for the record, it was one tortilla, one slice of turkey lunch meat, one slice of processed cheese, a packet of ranch dressing, some baby carrots and an orange. I am grateful for this lunch because it allowed legislators to ponder both the good and the troubling. I got to talk about the food chain and our desires for good things. We got to talk about carbs and sodium and health and hopes. And I noticed how many legislators opted to ”skip” lunch and head straight for the other options. Maybe they will think about how if they feel that way, our kiddos and families probably hunger differently, too.
I am grateful to LAMPa and everyone who coordinated today’s event and for everyone who is doing what they can to make a difference. We are about to fall off a cliff as SNAP benefits are rolled back. We will keep doing all we can but we need you in PA to reach out to your legislators. Our net simply cannot catch everyone who will now be headed our way. We may not agree on everything but hunger is one we can all relate to. Love your neighbors, talk to your legislators. #AntiHunger
 — The Rev. Carolyn Hetrick, associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in State College, posted this reflection to Facebook the day of the Legislative Lunch and Learn on Hunger in the State Capitol.  Lutheran hunger advocates and others invited their lawmakers to meet and learn together about the face of hunger in their communities and across the state. 


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