Second Harvest 2016 Spring Conference

Submitted by Lloyd Rowley

On Friday, April 29, seven members of the Unity Porchlight Team attended the Second Harvest spring conference.  We listened, learned, shared and had some fun and also gained $240 of credit towards buying food products from Second Harvest.  Team members who attended are Lloyd & Sandra Rowley, Ron Ruzicka, Ann Zenner, Roger Thompson, Don Macaulay and Terri Rorek.

What did we learn?

Dan Stein, CEO of the Madison Foodbank, demonstrated how a person living in Madison making $15 an hour is just a small mishap from being destitute. Even if people have health insurance, it does not mean they can afford health care. High copays, deductibles and out of coverage costs can be devastating. The keynote speaker, Lisa Bell, community relations specialist for the St Mary’s Health System, shared her story of having become homeless and then, with a lot of help from others, learned the skills necessary to support her and her two young children.

She told us not to prejudge people. Just because someone has a nice car and/or clothes does not mean that they are not in need of food or other help. It is important when working with people in poverty that you make personal eye contact, smile and let them know you care.

Lydia Zepeda of the UW shared the results of her case study of students and professionals in need, but who don’t take advantage of the hunger relief programs available. One of the overriding problems seems to be that people hide their food insecurity because of shame or a multitude of other problems and refuse to ask for help. We and they need to learn that poverty is not a character flaw.

Breakout sessions followed, which included:

  • Networking with other agencies and sharing challenges and successes in providing excellent service
  • Food safety and Second Harvest warehouse procedures
  • Childhood hunger programs including summer programs
  • Reducing food waste
  • Food share (New state law has reduced use by 41,000 persons which puts more stress on pantries)

Closing Remarks:

How We All Are Feeding Wisconsin by David Lee – Executive Director of Feeding Wisconsin.  David looked back on the progress we have made together fighting hunger at the state and national level charting a course toward a healthy and hunger-free Wisconsin