Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taking a Look Back at 2011...

Public engagement and lots of action kept us busy over the summer of 2011 here at Just Harvest! Our June annual meeting at United Steelworkers World Headquarters Downtown featured state-of-the-organization addresses by Board President Barbara Finch and Co-Director Tara Marks. About 40 attended to enjoy the Pittsburgh premiere screening of Shira and Yoav Potash’s acclaimed documentary “Food Stamped” .

In August, we held our First Annual Summer Picnic at the West End Overlook. The weather cooperated throughout the afternoon, and early attendees got a view of Heinz Field where scenes from “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” were being filmed. Friends, family, staff, board and members celebrated summer with a great potluck selection of food, music and games for the kids.

We took part in a number of public actions organized by our regional coalition partners as well. In June, as part of the One Pittsburgh coalition of labor, environmental and low-income advocacy organizations, we joined a 300-strong march from Market Square to the Exxon Station in Southside to protest tax breaks for the oil and gas industry while human services suffer under budget cuts. And in mid-August Just Harvest staff and board members again took to the streets with our partners in the We Are One coalition, gathering in a group of several hundred outside of Senator Pat Toomey’s office in the South side to demand that he do his job and work to create good jobs for needy households in our region.

At the behest of the nationally organized Half in Ten Campaign, Co-Director Tara Marks’ made a trip to the Whitehouse Rose Garden on September 12 to hear President Obama’s announcement of the American Jobs Act bill. For this, we drew a good bit of media attention. “This ‘get tough’ attitude is what we have been waiting for from the president,” she told Essential Public Radio, referring to Obama’s repeated call to Congress to “pass this bill!” And, as census data on poverty rates in our area were released later that month, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review profiled a pair of our food stamp clients who spoke firsthand about living through the effects of this tough economy. Client Steven Jones, who was interviewed in the first article, offered a kind endorsement: “My family and friends, that’s basically what got me by for the past year,” he said. “That and help from Just Harvest. If it wasn’t for that, things would be a lot worse.”

We reached out to the community through several public talks on Just Harvest and our economic justice work. Among other appearances, Ken Regal spoke to students at the Chatham University Food Studies program, and Communications Coordinator Adam MacGregor gave a talk to students at Academy Charter School about social safety net programs such as SNAP/Food Stamps and WIC. In October, Tara Marks co-presented a talk titled “Igniting the Political Will to End Hunger” with the Southwest Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership’s James Harrell at the Three Rivers Community Foundation’s Building Change: A Convergence for Social Justice event.

As the issues surrounding food and poverty programs will continue to develop rapidly over the coming election year, be sure to watch and listen for Just Harvest’s thoughts in print and on the air!

*(This article originally was to appear in Just Harvest News - we've republished it here because we still think it provides a nice recap of our 2011!)

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