Make your advocacy roar like a rushing river

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) eating lunch with children at Washington Discovery Academy. Jenn Hunter for Bread for the World.

By Angela Rupchock-Schafer

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

As time passes, advocacy becomes easier — until it is as smooth as water rushing in a river, as natural as a rainstorm, and the results become a veritable flood of God’s work in our time.

That is my story with U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.). Over the years, I have visited her office in Washington D.C., many times, representing the voices of Indiana’s 2nd District. As a proud member of the Bread for the World board of directors, I take each visit incredibly seriously. I feel a calling to advocacy. My first visit was some eight years ago, and I was a nervous mess.

And yet, with each progressive visit, my river of advocacy began to flow faster and faster. The stream of justice became more steady. This June, I took my son Deacon with me to Capitol Hill, and together we sat down with the congresswoman to talk hunger policy. I left that meeting incredibly grateful for the time she graciously spent with my son, and for his first memories of what faith looks like in action.

As the river of advocacy flows ever quicker, it’s important to keep the momentum going. So I organized a trip for Walorski to visit the hunger and poverty-fighting programs located in my corner of Indiana.

During her visit, I made sure the congresswoman visited Deacon’s elementary school, Washington Discovery Academy, to see firsthand how the programs she oversees as chair of the House Agriculture Nutrition Subcommittee play out in real life. Deacon led Walorski through the school breakfast line, and afterward she sat down with students to eat, discussed with them their daily routines, and learned, in personal terms, that for some children, the only guaranteed meal they get each day is provided by federal child nutrition programs.

After visiting my son’s school, Walorski visited the Marshall County Neighborhood Center food pantry. The food pantry serves more than 400 families a month. We were lucky enough to see a “food rescue” (when food that would have been thrown out goes to a food pantry instead) take place when a local Wal-Mart delivered produce and packaged salads.

I was careful to showcase how my community is marshalling to fight the hard-to-see rural hunger and poverty that afflicts 38 percent of our population. One must always remember that these “front-line” programs are supported by funding and policies from the federal government, which need to respond to the changing needs in our communities.

Churches and nonprofits are needed and do life-saving work. I volunteer with such groups regularly. Yet there simply is not the capacity or locally raised funding to take on such large needs without support from the federal government. That is why it is so vitally important that members of Congress see these programs in action, hear the voices of those affected, and ask questions of those responding.

So imagine my surprise when Walorski stood on the floor of the House and spoke of her visit to Marshall County. Many visits, phone calls, countless emails, and many tweets later, and my representative was speaking on the House floor about fighting poverty and ending hunger.

My best advice to anyone starting on this joyous path of advocacy is to go the extra mile. Pick up that phone. Make that visit. It all adds up as we work together to end hunger by 2030.

Angela Rupchock-Schafer is a Bread for the World board member and Hunger Justice Leader, student at Chicago Theological Seminary, and chief development and communications officer at Marshall County Community Foundation.

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