Exposing hunger in the race for Ohio’s next senator

Ohioan Lindsay Santiago says she is voting to end hunger.

By Nicole Schmidt

Ohio’s elected officials aren’t always comfortable talking about hunger, but that needs to change.

Ohio is the 5th hungriest state in the United States. As part of our I Vote to End Hunger strategy, Bread members put pressure on U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Ted Strickland, to acknowledge this devastating problem and tell us what they plan to do to end hunger if elected.

Faithful advocates in Ohio wrote 1,500 letters asking candidates for their plans; we wrote letters to the editor in local newspapers; we hosted public events to keep hunger part of our election dialogue; and this week, we are marking ballots with ending hunger on our minds.

Our persistence to overcome their resistance became the drumbeat of our efforts throughout the election season.

In August, we participated in an interfaith forum that brought together faith communities and organizations working within the community. Rev. Dr. Crystal Walker, the executive director of the Greater Dayton Christian Connections (GDCC), organized the event. Building partnerships for the common good is central to GDCC’s work.

For Walker, the church is the first line of defense against hunger, but a church cannot act alone to solve hunger. “We can provide food for a few families with the food pantries that we operate,” she said. “However, to end hunger in our communities, in the nation and in the world, we need the help of legislative efforts.”

Ending hunger in Ohio will take partnerships at the local and federal level. Government can set the framework so that everyone can work together to end hunger.

We needed to get that message to Strickland and Portman. So advocates gathered for the “Jericho Walk to End Hunger” on a sunny September afternoon in Dayton, Ohio. Armed with homemade signs, we made it clear that when we go to the polls, we will vote to end hunger.

In a video that was later sent to the candidates, we took turns talking about why we were voting to end hunger. For some it was a question of using funding to help people with the greatest needs in our society. But for others, it was personal.

Holding her infant daughter Addie, Lindsay Santiago said she was voting to end hunger because, “I can’t imagine as a mother that I wouldn’t be able to feed my child – that I wouldn’t know where her next meal is coming from.”

Walker pulled us back together one more time. On Oct. 9, a diverse group of faith leaders and activists gathered at Christ United Methodist Church in Kettering, Ohio. After a robust panel discussion exploring God’s call to end hunger, participants put pen to paper and asked candidates once again what they would do to end hunger and poverty.

All of the requests to meet, op-eds, events, and letter writing finally paid off when Portman’s office agreed to meet with a team of Bread activists to talk about hunger. At the meeting on Oct.  26th in Dayton, his office agreed to meet with us again within 60 days of the election, if he is re-elected.

Unfortunately, we did not get a response from Strickland’s campaign to meet with him.

Whoever is elected as senator must work to change Ohio’s ranking as one of the worst states when it comes to hunger. We intend to be there to work with them and make it happen.

Nicole Schmidt is an elections organizer for Bread for the World in Ohio.

Related Resources