Harnessing the Power of Community to Feed Kids

Project Bread

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Girl sitting at table with classmates in school cafeteria, eating sandwich and smiling at camera cheerfully.

Interview with Victoria Martins, Advocacy Manager at Project Bread

Meet Victoria Martins, the newest member of Project Bread's Advocacy Team. Victoria is an avid gardener, lover of baby goats, and is deeply passionate about ending hunger in our lifetime. In her role as Advocacy Manager she'll be building a community that can effect large scale change, like that initiated by our Feed Kids Campaign to make school meals accessible to every student in Massachusetts. In our chat, Victoria was eager to share more about her work and how people like you - committed to ending hunger - can get involved! 

School Meals for All

Before we talk about your new role at Project Bread, can you tell us what the Feed Kids Campaign is?

Victoria Martins (VM): I’d love to! It’s actually my first campaign in my new role and the most recent campaign the policy team has taken on. Feed Kids is a state legislative campaign that will make school meals accessible to every child across the state. It’s really exciting!

Who’s involved in this?  

VM: Well, the bill, called School Meals for All, was filed by the Feed Kids Coalition, which is a diverse set of organizations from across the state who are passionate about feeding kids. We currently have 71 organizations as part of the coalition and they come from all kinds of sectors within the community. For instance there’s all of the food banks in Massachusetts, agricultural organizations, schools and school districts, municipal leaders, business and corporate partners, social service partners, legal advocates, youth organizations and health partners, faith based communities, and so on.

Individuals are also a key component of this campaign, and the coalition and Project Bread have been keeping constituents updated on the effort. Right now we're working with our supporters to try and get their legislators to co-sponsor the bill. We've been sending out action alerts through emails and social media to ask folks to take actions like calling and emailing their legislators. So far almost 600 advocates have made over 1200 connections to their legislators about the Feed Kids Campaign!

That’s great! How does someone get these action alerts if they want to get more involved? 

VM: They can go to feedkidsma.org and join the coalition or take action on the website. There's a link to email your legislators today and let them know you care about this bill and want them to co-sponsor. It's as easy as a click! It will find your legislator for you and the email is already written and you can modify it if you'd like.

The School Meals for All legislation can't pass without lots of support, so we need everyone who cares. I would say to anyone reading, if you're part of faith community reach out and organize them to join the Feeds Kids Coalition. If you’re part of a Parent Teacher Organization do the same. Get your dentist and doctor’s offices to sign on. If you own a business sign on. Really, anyone can sign on and the more we grow this list of supporters, and the more diverse they are, the more it shows legislators how important school meals are to not only kids but to the whole Commonwealth.

How many co-sponsors do you have right now? 

VM: We have 92, which is a great number on our way to a goal of 100, but we hope to surpass that goal. We can only do that with the support of advocates.


Grassroots and Grasstops

Okay, that's a nice lead back to the question of what’s an Advocacy Manager and why did Project Bread need one?

VM: That’s a great question! The Advocacy Manager oversees grassroots and grasstops advocacy efforts…

Wait, what exactly do “grassroots” and “grasstops” mean?

VM: Another great question. Grassroots power change from the roots up, so they are regular people, neighborhoods, and communities that come together with their diverse experiences of “the real world” that inform the kind of change we want to see. These are the individual constituents and supporters I mentioned when we were just talking about the Feed Kids Campaigns

Grasstops, on the other hand, are organizations, municipal officials, legislators, and the like. They already have some kind of power or influence. These would be the organizations that make up the Feed Kids Coalition, for instance.

Bringing grassroots and grasstops together makes for more powerful advocacy.

Okay, got it! So, you were saying that the Advocacy Manager oversees grassroots and grasstops advocacy efforts…

VM: Right... Project Bread has historically had very important and critical programs that help people, but the only way we can truly end hunger in Massachusetts is to mobilize the political will to make systemic changes that will better the lives of people all across the state. We've expanded our policy capacity so we can take on more projects and grow our work. My role is to try to connect people and get the word out.

I oversee our efforts to advocate for solutions to hunger through getting greater and greater numbers of people and organizations across different sectors to participate in the legislative process as a way to further our policy agenda. This includes things like mobilizing our Action Team around important pieces of legislation and policy.

The Action Team

Wait, can you tell us about the Action Team?

VM: Sure! The Action Team is a network of committed advocates who are passionate about furthering anti-hunger policies at both the state and federal levels. Project Bread works with this group to keep in touch with our legislators and help move our initiatives forward. Anyone who cares about ending hunger can join the Action Team, so please put in the link to join the Action Team when you publish this. (We were happy to do so, Victoria!)

Why is the Action Team so important?

VM:  Because it's important to be actively engaged in our politics if we’re going to end hunger. We especially want to be engaged at the state level because it has such an impact on our daily lives, and this is what really gives us a chance to make people’s live better. Legislators respond to us and it makes a difference if you reach out. 

Through the Action Team you find out who your legislators are, and you find out that they will listen to you, and that you might even get a response back! State legislators don't hear as much from constituents as do federal legislators, so it's important they hear from their constituents.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Victoria. Good luck on the campaign, and we’ll check in again with you about it if that’s okay?

VM: Thank you, and I’m always happy to talk about the work we’re doing to feed our neighbors in need.

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