The Polls: Where faith and civic participation meet

Design by Doug Puller/Bread for the World.

By Catherine Winn

I took a day off last month from my summer internship at Bread for the World to work at the polling place in my precinct for the Washington, D.C., primary election. As a voter assistance clerk, I spoke with voters who had struggled through the humid June heat to vote in an election that held little significance in the eyes of the media.

As the last presidential primary in a city that does not have representation in Congress, elections in D.C. are relatively inconsequential in the United States as a whole. Even so, voters in my precinct worked to ensure that their voices, however ignored by the rest of the country, would be heard. Their commitment to political engagement and their belief in the power of their vote drove hundreds of my neighbors to the polls, despite car troubles, long walks, or tight schedules. It was an inspiring day.

By choosing council members and presidential nominees, these voters were shaping the future of hunger and poverty in their city. As a member of Metropolitan Memorial United Church in Washington, D.C., I have participated in serving meals to people in need. Many of those individuals being helped have jobs and are addressing their mental health issues but still suffer from homelessness and food insecurity.

God explicitly calls us to end injustices around us, and my internship with Bread this summer gives me an opportunity to practice my Christian beliefs in every assignment. Even in my relatively short time at Bread, I have developed a deeper respect and appreciation for voters who are determined to exercise their democratic right to alleviate hunger in their communities.  While the percentage of undernourished people in the world has fallen dramatically in the past 20 years –thanks in large part to programs of our federal government that voters and hunger advocates supported – we still have a long road ahead to end hunger in my lifetime.

What happens in the November elections, at the local and national level, will influence how serious our country is about setting a priority to end hunger for good. In August, Bread will formally launch its Vote to End Hunger campaign.  Our vote can and will make a difference in the lives of hungry people in my D.C. neighborhood and around the world. Bread has commissioned surveys, produced election resources, and met with candidates’ policy advisers to help magnify the importance of hunger and poverty issues in the 2016 elections. And more is still to come.

Voting to end hunger applies to all levels of government, not only presidential campaigns. Mayors, city council members, and board of education members are the types of elected officials who can also work toward ending hunger in our community if voters insist that ending hunger is a core component of their platform. Even though an election may seem unimportant, as it seemed in D.C., every ballot that is cast can have a lasting impact if we collectively exercise our right to vote at the national and local levels. Whether interning at Bread or volunteering in my voting precinct, I see my efforts as my faith in action to end hunger.

Catherine Winn is an intern in the church relations department at Bread for the World.

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