Students Advocate for the Hungry During Teach-In for Justice
Last weekend, hundreds of Catholic youths descended on Washington, D.C., for the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice, an annual gathering of college and high school students from Jesuit institutions. They prayed together, networked, reflected, and learned about working for justice in the world. The speakers were inspiring, but even more inspiring were the students! They were bright, passionate, engaged, informed, energetic, and deeply committed to letting the love of Jesus spill out of them in both their personal lives, and in their public service and advocacy. They inspired, rejuvenated, and showed me the face of Jesus over and over again.
As Bread for the World’s Catholic relations fellow, I was given the opportunity to put together a team to hang out with hundreds of these amazing young people, who are looking to explore what it means to be an active Catholic with a public voice.
My fellow Bread staff members and I presented at a number of workshops. Amelia Kegan, a domestic policy analyst at Bread, and I talked about creating a "circle of protection" around essential safety net programs here in the United States, and how to take action by urging policy makers to strengthen programs that help hungry people. Bread’s international policy analysts, Beth Ann Saracco and Ryan Quinn, led a session on maternal and child nutrition, and how providing proper nutrients to women and children during the 1,000 days from the beginning of pregnancy through a child’s second birthday is essential for preventing disease, improving education, strengthening health, and saving lives. These 1,000 days are key!
We also invited participants to come to share with us how they are involved in ending hunger in their own communities, and in the world at large.
On Sunday, we were able to address the group as a whole to discuss the importance of protecting SNAP (food stamps) in the farm bill. We trained groups of students in how to talk to their policy makers when they gathered at the Capitol building on Monday for prayer, praise, and advocacy meetings with their congressional representatives.
We also encouraged the students to message their members of Congress using Twitter, and other forms of social media. Take a look at some of the messages these students tweeted to their representatives as part of our social media campaign:
All of this was very encouraging, but the most powerful takeaway I left with was hope. The media is filled with stories that condemn this young generation, calling them lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to speak up to change the systems that keep people hungry and poor. But this group, and others like it, is proof that their generation is not only engaged, but immensely creative with their activism and eager to help those suffering from hunger and living in poverty.
Billy Kangas is the fellow for Catholic Relations at Bread for the World.
Photos: (top) Billy Kangas and a friend at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice (Gary Cook). (Bottom) The group of Jesuit students gathered on the mall for the event (Billy Kangas).
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