This guest blog is provided by the Hunger-Free Leadership Institute (H-FLI) through Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, an organization that raises awareness about hunger, gives people access to food, and advocates for systemic change to end hunger in Oregon. H-FLI is an eight-month leadership development opportunity for emerging community leaders in grassroots advocacy and anti-hunger systems change.
Chris Baker is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. She is a single mom of two, whose oldest son is a sophomore at the University of Oregon and whose youngest son (age 14) lives with her in the suburbs of Portland with a chocolate Lab, Lucy, who is the center of their universe.
Framed inside of a shadow box, next to my desk is a blue Oregon Trail card (also known as Oregon’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP). I like to joke that there should be a sign next to it that reads “in case of emergency, break glass!” While there’s levity in that statement, it’s never really that far from a reality for me.
Ten years ago I found myself in situational poverty after my husband unexpectedly left. I became a single parent to my two young boys. With very irregular child support, and no income to support my family, meals were sometimes boxed mac-n-cheese or cereal (if there was milk). Mortgage was often late, and lacking in healthcare, I was always stressed about getting sick.
For the past ten years, I have worked my way out of the trenches of poverty, first by returning to community college, and then by obtaining a Bachelor’s degree. I credit my ability to utilize SNAP and other resources for my getting to where I am today. So where am I today? I’m the Community Engagement Coordinator at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon (PHFO), a small nonprofit that strives to remove barriers that keep people from accessing resources, raises awareness about hunger, creates access to food, and advocates for systemic change to end hunger. Not only has my job at PHFO allowed me to retire my Oregon Trail card, it has empowered me to share my story with legislators, changing the stigma that surrounds food stamp recipients, and helping make changes so that others who are fighting their way out of poverty have access to the tools they need to survive.
One of my favorite things about my job is co-managing our Hunger Free Leadership Institute (H-FLI). This year, the H-FLI cohort consists of seven women from the Portland metro area, the majority of whom identify as women of color, and all of whose lives have been significantly impacted by experiencing hunger and/or poverty.
I am so honored for the opportunity to work alongside these women. The work that we are doing together will make significant changes to systems that have made us feel hopeless, trapped and, more importantly, voiceless. Together, we are lifting our voices and finding ways for others to do so as well.
I am so excited to attend the conference in Washington, D.C.! I’ve never been to D.C., and have always wanted to go. I am looking forward to speaking on the “Nuts and Bolts of Engaging People with Lived Experience in Your Anti-Hunger Advocacy” panel and visiting Capitol Hill. Most important to me is that I’ll be bringing both of my sons with me. I am proud to have the opportunity to share my work with them.
I think this visit to D.C. is one of my proudest accomplishments in the past ten years. I am grateful to do this work, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share this work with my boys.
Join Chris at #hungerpc18. Register today.