This Black History Month, we’re highlighting Black individuals who have lead the fight against hunger. We hope their stories inspire you to join the fight against hunger this Black History Month.
Many know Rep. Chisholm as the first Black woman to be elected to congress – representing New York’s 12th District. What many don’t know, though, is that Rep. Chisholm was the architect of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Program, commonly referred to as WIC. WIC, a federal program that offers healthy foods for children 0-5 and pregnant women, as well nutrition education, counseling and referrals to local health and welfare agencies, has been an essential lifeline to families facing hunger. In Tennessee alone, 150,000 women, infants, and children under the age of five have access to nutritious food thanks to the work of Shirley Chisholm.
"Service is the rent that you pay for room on this Earth"
– Shirley Chisholm
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver’s name has become synonymous with modern agriculture. Born into slavery in the 1860s, Washington Carver went on to become the first Black person in America to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. After earning his Masters in Agriculture, Washington Carver went on to found the School of Agriculture at Tuskegee University in Alabama. While there, Washington Carver not only found affordable ways for famers to feed their livestock and fertilize their land, he also went on to revolutionize soil chemistry. By discovering nitrogen fixing crops, such as peanuts and soybeans, would restore nutrients to the soil, Washington Carver found a way to increase the chances of successful future harvests. Washington Carver traveled the farmlands of America in a horse and wagon to demonstrate his discovery. George Washington Carver’s intellect directly resulted in untold millions of pounds of produce to be harvested across America, helping fight hunger for generations, and brought America in the modern agricultural age.
"It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success."
– George Washington Carver
In the 1980s, hunger was on the rise across America despite the Food Stamp Act of 1977. Even with the current levels of government assistance, millions of Americans were not able to afford a nutritious and sustainable diet. That is why Mickey Leland, who also was one of the co-founders of the House Select Committee on Hunger, introduced the Domestic Hunger Relief Act, among other legislative movements to create the modern the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). 42 million people each year receive benefits from SNAP, and many rely on the program as their primary source of food. Without Leland’s reforms, many of these Americans would not have this reliable access to the food they need. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is also directly impacted by Leland’s work. Here at Second Harvest we offer SNAP outreach and application assistance at our Emergency Food Box sites, Mobile Pantry distributions, and Partner Agency locations. We share information about the benefits and provide prescreening for people who may qualify. Nearly 1,500 SNAP applications were completed by providing direct client assistance.
"The more influence I get, the more I can help the people of the 18th District, but also people throughout the country.
– Mickey Leland