It isn't JUST food..., part 1
- on July 31, 2012
Have you ever seen the movie Hotel Rwanda? There is an interesting exchange that happens between Paul & Jake.
Paul (Don Cheadle): How can people see this footage and not intervene? Jack (Joaquin Phoenix): I think if people see this footage, they’ll say “Oh my God, that’s horrible” and go on eating their dinners.
I have a deep admiration for people that just couldn't go on eating their dinners anymore when they see a need. It takes inspiration, perspiration, innovation, preparation and motivation to get something off of the ground.
One of the people in the interview room when I was a candidate for the job at Just Food was Ann Weick. Ann is the founder of the Just Food program. She couldn't just go on eating her dinner. She, at the time, was the Dean of the School of Social Welfare at KU. She saw a huge need and the difficulty of getting food to individuals and agencies in Douglas County.
And she decided to do something about it.
Ann recently brought all of her files and emails to go through from the start of the Just Food program. I've had quite a few opportunities to sit down with others who know Ann, and I had the opportunity to sit down with Ann last week.
On one of the first meeting agenda items of the first official meeting that took place, Ann wrote:
-Is ultimate goal of Just Food to create a central food bank to store food, providing nutritional programs and provide other related services?
-Will it be necessary to develop a larger statement of mission in order to attract/satisfy funders and more fully represent our vision?
-If community education about local hunger is part of our vision, would it be helpful to create a "Hunger Forum" for Lawrence, with opportunity for small group discussions?
-How can we better publicize the presence and purpose of Just Food, for example through website or other communication tools.
I'm an innovator. I love having ideas and making them happen. But, I get just as much satisfaction out of taking someone else's great ideas and bringing them to fruition. I want to talk this week about those four things that Ann wrote about in one of the first meetings, and how we're doing what we can to address those.
But today, I want to talk about the name, Just Food.
When I came to Lawrence, I'll readily admit that I didn't like the name. I felt as though it boxed us in to do things that were JUST (only) food. Things like the diaper drive would be off of our mission. Partnering with the Lawrence Humane Society to provide animal food to folks who need that for their animals is off mission. Nutrition classes would be a stretch because we did JUST (only) food.
I sat down with Ann and asked her about the name change. Free State Food Bank or Wheat State Food Bank sounded good to me. It's marketable.
Ann told me that it was my decision to make, but asked if she could tell me the Just Food story. She told me how it started, and then told me about her moment when she couldn't go on eating her dinner.
"Jeremy, food is a justice issue. It's JUST that people have food," Ann told me emphatically.
It was as if a new world had been opened to me at that moment. Our name wasn't about only doing food. Our name was about justice. It was about doing the right thing. It's JUST that people have FOOD. Just Food.
"After all," Ann said, "it can't be JUST (only) food..."