Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Live Blogging from the Idaho Hunger Summit: Part 2

Just popped by Nancy Amidei’s workshop on Advocacy. Nancy is a truly amazing advocate. She worked with former Senator George McGovern when there was a Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs and was part of the hunger listening sessions they conducted across America. She was also the director of the Food Research Action Center (FRAC), and is currently a senior lecturer at the University of Washington Social Work.

I LOVE Nancy’s enthusiasm, and the crowd is getting into it. She has a contagious laugh and a very warm presence. She started out the session talking about what it means to be an advocate. Sometimes simple is better:

Advocacy just means speaking up.

So true.

Nancy started the session with a flashback to “7th grade social studies.” Fear and repression of adolescent angst notwithstanding, it was a very nice refresher course. She talked about “Capitol Math:” effective legislative advocacy means you have to always be thinking about getting 51% of legislators onboard (I know, wonks, you usually need 60 in the Senate – got it covered).

She told an anecdote about working with state representatives. She once asked a state representative about how many phone calls it takes to really get their attention. The answer

About 10-15. Maybe a dozen.

IIRAH is doing a lot of work on a statewide level to advocate for initiatives such as eliminating the state’s grocery tax. They are also working on expanding access to a wide range of nutrition programs like Food Stamps SNAP. On a statewide advocacy level, many of the committees of jurisdiction for these measures only have five members. FIVE! Nancy did some quick Capitol Math… You need 3 votes on the Committee to pass something out… So if you need a dozen calls to get a legislator’s attention, and you need 3 votes, how hard would it be to organize 36 calls from these key districts to these legislators?

One (big) caveat: she was talking to a state legislator in Texas who she described as a “big, burly guy.” I’m paraphrasing Nancy imitating aforementioned legislator:

You gotta understand something… [a dozen calls] isn’t gonna buy my vote. But it will get my attention.

Nancy’s lesson:

Good advocates never stop advocating.

One more, from Mark Twain:

When you need a friend, it’s too late to make one.

Great food for thought… Best part, Nancy didn’t send me back to the seventh grade. Whew!


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