A One-Week SNAP Challenge: Will you join me?

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On behalf of JFN conference co-chair Irina Nevzlin and myself, I want to say how very excited we are about seeing many of you in Los Angeles for the Jewish Funders Network 2013 International Conference. We have a great program lined-up as you can see by clicking this link. This program should be a terrific experience for everyone so if you haven't already done so, please register as we are eager to host you in LA.

In the lead up to this year’s conference, The Nathan Cummings Foundation's CEO, Simon Greer and I are undertaking additional preparation by stepping into someone else’s shoes.

As part of our commitment to the values of social justice rooted in the Jewish tradition, we are embarking on a special project to draw attention to and better understand the pervasive issue of food insecurity in America.

There is a tremendous unmet need in this country around food insecurity. As of Thanksgiving 2012, a record 42.2 million Americans were receiving nutrition assistance benefits. While these benefits are designed to supplement a household’s food budget, in practice many recipients rely solely on the program for all or almost all of their food costs.

Simon and I will soon begin a “Food Stamp Challenge” to limit our food budget to a fixed amount, based on what an American living on nutrition assistance might receive. For each of us this means meeting a full week’s food needs with only $36.88 – the average weekly benefit in New York State – and without relying on anything previously purchased at home, or free food or drinks at the office or social gatherings.

We will begin the challenge next night Friday, March 8, and continue until the following Shabbat dinner. We are inviting other members of the JFN community to join us in taking this challenge. If you are interested, please see the attached guidelines for more information.

Regardless of your choice to join us in this challenge, please consider following us during our journey. We will be updating the JFN community through JFN’s Twitter feed and the Nathan Cummings Foundation Facebook page, and we encourage you to check back often to follow our experience.

We look forward to the conference’s closing plenary on Tuesday, March 19, where we will reflect on our experience, and hear from speakers who will address the issue of poverty from fascinating and widely different perspectives.

No voluntary experiment could ever truly replicate the emotional, financial, and psychological stress of living on food stamps. As the pain of poverty grows more acute in our nation, Israel, and the world, it seems timely, as Jews and as philanthropists, to consider our responsibility in addressing the lack of access to convenient, affordable and healthy food in our cities and neighborhoods. We continue to ask, what is the role of both government and private action in addressing poverty? We hope our effort sparks additional dialogue around this issue at and beyond this year’s conference.

As a foundation that seeks to build a socially and economically just society, and whose grantmaking works to address the unmet needs of our nation’s poor, disadvantaged and underserved, we embark on this journey in the spirit of a Jewish principle that guides much of our philanthropy: TZEDEK TZEDEK TIRDOFF (Justice, justice shall you pursue. Deuteronomy 16:20).

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