Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
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Nicole Schmidt

Young Leader Speaks Up for Ohio Kids

This article originally appeared in the December 2010.

Nicole Schmidt is an alumna of the 2010 Hunger Justice Leaders training program. A native of Ohio, she spoke at two churches in Willard, OH, as part of this fall’s Bread for the World Sunday, October 17.

According to the latest figures available, 13.5 percent of Ohio residents were living below the poverty line in 2008-2009, up from 12.5 percent in 2006-2007. Unemployment stood at 9.6 percent in September 2010.

We recently spoke with Schmidt about growing up hungry, her experiences at Bread’s Lobby Day this year, and the importance of sharing personal stories with elected officials.

What was it like to speak at a Bread for the World Sunday event?

The first was Grace United Methodist Church in Willard. I brought my story to let them know about Bread for the World. Then I spoke at my home congregation, Christian Alliance Church. Both included an Offering of Letters urging Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) to maintain strong child nutrition programs. When I visited Rep. Latta’s office in June, he told me he’d received only a few letters from our district in the past. Hearing from these congregations may make a big difference.

What led you to your work to end hunger?

My parents were teenage parents. They put themselves through college when I was small. I remember the kindness of the adults we saw at the food bank. So later, I helped start the Hope Center in Willard. I wanted to fill the kids’ bellies, show them hope and compassion. Our Kids Café is fun and educational. And our Backpack Program means they leave us every Friday with a backpack filled with food.

What was the highlight of the Hunger Justice Leaders training for you?

Walking to my representative’s office, sitting next to him on the couch, and telling him what I want him to do. It was mind-blowing! I’m proud to have the freedom as an American to speak my mind. I invited him to visit the Hope Center, and his aide came. For her to meet the children and see our Kids Café and Backpack Program was so timely, because the child nutrition reauthorization bill still isn’t settled.

Not long after the training, you spoke at the “Kids Talk” series of Voices for Ohio’s Children. What was that like?

This forum was attended by staffers from several congressional offices. I wanted them to see real children benefiting from child nutrition programs. So I brought photos and stories of kids from the Hope Center. Our representatives need to see children’s faces and know that they are full of potential and dreams, like their own children. Our government can end hunger if [decision-makers] have the will. At the Hunger Justice Leaders training, the biblical directives connected with justice made me realize: I need to speak up, even more so because I am a Christian.

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