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A 23 year veteran of WhyHunger, Noreen brings a combination of marketing, fundraising, program management, operations and executive experience to shape the vision and leadership of the organization. With two decades of steadfast commitment to the mission of WhyHunger, Noreen has directed program services to develop, support and replicate innovative grassroots solutions and established the fundraising and marketing department, guiding its growth over the years. She has led the cultivation of high-level corporate partnerships and built long-term relationships with notable artists, management and record labels resulting in millions of dollars in support to WhyHunger and its community based partners. Noreen is a graduate of Rutgers University with a BA in Political Science and completed an Executive Education Certification Program given by the Harvard Kennedy School. She has served on the board of numerous community and civic organizations.
1. What is WhyHunger and how do you support local and sustainable agriculture?
WhyHunger was founded in 1975 and has always advocated looking at the root causes of hunger to create system wide change. More recently, we’ve evolved more fully to be a grassroots support organization working with community-based organizations, and networks and alliances around the world to solve the problems of hunger and poverty through solutions that meet people’s immediate food needs today while organizing to ensure that healthy food is available to everyone through sustainable and dignified means well into the future. We invest in grassroots solutions in the U.S. and in more than twenty countries around the world. We seek out partners who share our core values, are community led, utilize agroecological practices, and focus on nutrition. We also share the stories of sustainable food solutions from grassroots leaders in their own words. Storytelling is a powerful way to help us build the movement to end hunger.
2. How long has the program been happening, and where did it get its start?
Defining ourselves as a grassroots support organization began about five years ago. We wanted to differentiate WhyHunger from other organizations addressing hunger and demonstrate that we go beyond the charitable feeding model and support innovations that empower local communities to envision and build towards a world free of hunger through nutrition, sustainable farming, and economic development. We see a clear distinction between “feeding” and “nourishing” as a solution to hunger. WhyHunger’s work builds capacity, provides technical assistance, shares stories, makes grants and addresses hunger and poverty on a local level while operating from a national and international framework rooted in the belief that food is a human right.
3. How can people get involved with WhyHunger?
We want to build our base of readership and support so subscribing to our newsletter and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a great way to start. Then you can engage us further in our activities and events. We also have a newly launched digital storytelling site (http://grassroots.whyhunger.org/ ) that features 60+ incredible stories of communities based leaders across the US and around the world who are innovating, creating and changing their local food systems. It’s a great way to educate yourself about what’s happening in your own backyard or across the country, and to learn about the folks who are leading the movement from the ground up!
4. What’s your favorite part of our film, Growing Cities, and why?
My favorite part of the film is that it highlights the community leaders, organizations and folks directly involved in these local projects, providing a platform for them to share their own stories and examples of the impact of urban farming in communities. From conversations with folks like Malik Yakini, Karen Washington and many others, the film offers viewers a chance to hear the voices of leaders in the growing food justice movement. At WhyHunger, we believe deeply in the power of storytelling - and specifically the power that comes when communities tell their own stories – to catalyze change in our broken food system. Taking the time to shine a light on these important local stories gives the film an authentic voice and heartbeat.
5. What’s one issue in the food movement you wish people were more aware of?
I think the idea of intersectional organizing is really key to ending hunger. The charitable model of distributing food coupled with shrinking government nutrition programs, though critical to meeting immediate needs, are not ending hunger. We are hopeful that we can build a social movement that prioritizes food as a human right and illuminates the intersection of food with health, economic justice, racial justice and environmental justice. They all go hand in hand. And we need to work together with folks across these borders to make lasing change. Until we start really talking about and dismantling the systems that perpetuate the injustices that lead to hunger, we are missing the opportunity to not just reform, but transform our broken food system.
6. Anything else you’d like to add?
After decades of doing this work, I am more hopefully than ever. There is a renewed consciousness and awareness that we can’t keep operating in this broken system and that our people and planet are depending on change. You look at the organizing in last year’s People’s Climate March, the International Forum on Agroecology in Mali, the CIW’s Fair Food Program, the organized demands for a living minimum wage, #BlackLivesMatter and on and on. The momentum is building for real lasting change and WhyHunger is actively supporting those communities and leaders who are at the forefront of this growing social movement for a just, nourished society for us all.
Thank you Noreen!