Executive Director, Hunger Solutions
For Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions, the mark of a successful movement is when you’re no longer identified as where you come from, but instead where you want to be. That’s how she sees the food access movement in Minnesota, specifically work resulting from the Food Access Summit.
“As the Summit has grown, I’ve seen it move from focusing on special workshops for special interests, to what it is today—holistic, broad-based topics that everyone can learn from. You might start out as an anti-hunger advocate and leave as an advocate for food access. You learn how to embrace strategy of partners and work together.”
Colleen has served as a Food Access Summit co-chair for the last several years, and Hunger Solutions staff members are involved in the programming, fundraising, and logistics around the event. This year’s Summit is this week in Duluth, and Colleen is excited to help move the conversation around health equity and food systems forward.
“Hunger Solution’s partnership around Food Access Summit has been very meaningful,” she said. “Professionally and personally, I’ve learned so much being part of these discussions.”
Thinking Big Picture on Equity
The lack of food access and the hunger that results from it can seem like a big, insurmountable problem, but Colleen is convinced it’s a fight we can win. While hunger may not go away overnight, Colleen says we have the power to create real solutions if we work together. But working together is the key.
“Years ago, anti-hunger programs often worked independently of one another, even though their work and goals were similar,” Colleen explained. “Hunger Solutions has always embraced collaboration, but there were still so many people and organizations that we could connect with to improve people’s lives all along the income range.”
In that moment, Colleen made the decision that Hunger Solutions needed to be a partner in those efforts. Simply going about trying to find additional resources was never going to help them solve the anti-hunger issue unless they played a strong role in partnerships.
Breaking Down Silos and Connecting Across Borders
Hunger Solutions Minnesota works with both state and federal government to advance programs that tackle hunger on a large scale. It also works with food banks and food shelves to distribute food on a smaller scale
“We work to connect hungry people with local help,” Colleen told us. “And we work with public and private sector partners to bring community resources to the table. As the only statewide anti-hunger organization whose services reach every county of Minnesota, we are not only fighting against hunger today, but also finding long-term solutions to end hunger in the future. All of that is the direct result of the partnerships we’re fortunate to have.”
As she looks forward to next week’s Food Access Summit—Colleen anticipates forging even more symbiotic connections and partnerships.
“Food access and health equity are larger than meeting one need of an individual. It means access to transportation to reach healthy food; it means affordable healthy food that all families can afford; it means legislation that supports farmers and growers; and it means families acquiring the skills to know what to purchase and how to cook it,” she said. “The Food Access Summit combines all of those initiatives beautifully, and really brings the work and movement together as one.”
To learn more about the Food Access Summit, click here.
To learn more about Hunger Solutions, visit their website.