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Hunger Action Advocate helps Californians fight food insecurity

Corinne Quinn calls food a ‘basic human right’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Corinne Quinn is Presbytery of the Redwoods’ Hunger Action Advocate. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Being a resource for churches in the Presbytery of the Redwoods that are tackling food insecurity in their communities or have an interest in doing so is one of Corinne Quinn’s passions.

Quinn, a deacon and a ruling elder at First Presbyerian Church of Vallejo, California, is a Hunger Action Advocate (HAA) who coordinates the Presbytery of the Redwoods’ Hunger Task Force. Through projects such as the annual Pedal for Protein bicycle ride, the Task Force helps to fund hunger initiatives that benefit people who are struggling to put food on the table. The task force also does advocacy work, such as letter-writing campaigns.

“There are certain members of society who can’t afford the basic human right of food and … what’s so near and dear to my heart is giving them free, good-quality, nutritious food,” Quinn said of her work as an HAA. “We do have areas of our presbytery that are food deserts,” where people have trouble accessing nutritious food because there are no grocery stores nearby, “so we’re pleased that our food pantries and other food programs that we sponsor allow access to healthy food.”

Quinn, who has a master’s degree in public health and is wrapping up work on her doctorate of chiropractic degree, is one of nearly a dozen Hunger Action Advocates around the country serving presbyteries as educators, motivators and facilitators of hunger action, according to the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

“I love the work that I’m doing,” she said. “Being Hunger Action Advocate is a natural extension of what I do professionally and coordinating God’s people is a pleasure and a natural extension of what I do personally, as well.”

Hunger Action Advocates, whose positions are partly funded by PHP and partly funded by their presbyteries, help congregations and other groups get involved in direct hunger relief, hunger-related development assistance, public policy advocacy, education and interpretation about hunger and environmental justice. They complement the work of PHP and are locally situated to do more hands-on organizing and education.

“I get questions from churches throughout the presbytery pretty regularly,” saying, “We have the desire to try to alleviate hunger in our community … What kind of project should we do?” Quinn said. “I always say, ‘No project is a bad project. Whatever you feel called to do, whatever need that you see in your community that needs to be met, that’s the hunger project that you should ask to be funded.’”

The task force has two main programs, Cents-Ability and Pedal for Protein, which both generate money for grants to fund community projects.

With Cents-Ability, participating churches collect a monthly offering that is then pooled together to provide funds to address hunger concerns. Churches and their nonprofit community-based partners can draw on the fund for projects, such as community gardens, food pantries and meal programs.

“Last year, we gave away $23,625 through our Cents-Ability Fund and this year already, we’ve given away about $11,000 to churches and other nonprofit organizations from this same fund,” Quinn said. “God has truly blessed us, and churches are very, very generous, stepping up to the plate to provide for those who need food the most, and for that, we are grateful.”

Pedal for Protein is an annual bicycle ride — celebrating its 10th anniversary this year — that raises money to help food banks purchase protein-rich foods, which can be expensive.

“We have raised over $400,000 in the past nine years,” she said. “We have some very faithful people throughout our presbytery that love to ride bicycles and they train for this all year long. Last year’s ride was a seven-day ride and a little over 300 miles round trip were pedaled by these protein riders,” who have multiple sponsors, such as church members and businesses.

Money from the ride is distributed to eight local food banks as well as an international hunger project each year. “Last year, we raised over $50,000,” Quinn noted.

One of the newest initiatives in the presbytery is a community fridge being operated by First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo that has received funds from multiple sources, including the Presbytery of the Redwoods Hunger Task Force and a GoFundMe account.

Photo by Mike Erskine via Unsplash

“The Presbytery of the Redwoods Hunger Task Force gave money to stock the refrigerator, as did members of the church,” said Quinn, adding that it’s been widely used by people seeking fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat and other items.

People are happy to assist with the presbytery’s various projects because “northern California is a really expensive place to live,” Quinn said. “People know that” and respond generously. “For that, we praise God.”

The Presbyterian Hunger Program is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Its work is made possible by your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing. Go here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a list of Hunger Action Advocates across the country.

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