Monday, December 28, 2015

Two Pats and patriotism: Striving for a world, country, and communities without hunger

by Ellen Messer

We lost two Pats in 2015. And I’m not talking about season-ending injuries to gigantic players on our favorite New England football team, but about two small heroes in Team America’s fight against hunger.

One, Patricia Kutzner, founded the World Hunger Education Service and its newsletter, Hunger Notes. Over the period 1975 through 1995 she produced background materials, ran workshops, established a clearinghouse of organizations, and helped stimulate official and community actions against hunger by making sure everyone had information about the problems and the stakeholders in America’s War on Poverty and hunger. A Quaker, who worked closely with inter-denominational Christian and interfaith organizations, she helped shape national advocacy against hunger and for human rights, then dedicated her final twenty years to consulting for the Navajo Nation, as they ramped up their community agencies and services. Her many contributions are remembered and memorialized in Lance Vanderslice’s tribute in Hunger Notes.

The second, Patricia Young, served as the American coordinator for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s World Food Day, from 1981 through 2010. As background to this position, she brought years of civic-leadership experience, having served in an array of community, regional, national, and international capacities, expansively addressing education, civic responsibility, corporate responsibility, and government obligations to end hunger and injustice. Presbyterian, inter-denominational Christian, and inter-faith mobilizations against apartheid and hunger contributed important moral and structural contexts at home, in the nation’s capital, and in Rome. In recognition of her actions that helped transform America’s responses to hunger, she was awarded the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Prize for Public Service.

Like the first Pat, working with these agents of change, she encouraged mobilizations at every level against hunger by championing civil and human rights at home and in the world. In both cases, their lives of action demonstrate that true democracy means challenging society and government to pay attention, to address hunger and injustice and protect human rights, in all forms and at every scale. Both life stories testify that each and every citizen can make a difference; they show that democracy can work, and only works, when individuals courageously take or create such possibilities.

As Americans reflect on patriotism in this new year’s season of Presidential hopefuls, let voters remember the gigantic efforts of these two true patriots who confronted the violence of racial discrimination and hunger with courageous actions. Can their successors maintain such momentum in this age of virtual representations, religious posturing, and diversionary social media?

Note: Biographical information taken from Hunger Notes and obituary in Scranton Times-Tribune.

Ellen Messer is affiliated faculty at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

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