Putting Equity into Action with Claire Babineaux-Fontenot

Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger
Episode 1: “Putting Equity into Action with Claire Babineaux-Fontenot”

Ami McReynolds: Welcome to Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger. I'm Ami McReynolds, your host. I'm the chief equity and programs officer with Feeding America. Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger is a series of conversations that we'll have with everyday leaders who are disrupting systems of inequity across this country and the systems that drive food insecurity in America. 

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: So, you plan to go deep on this show?

Ami McReynolds: That's why we're at the kitchen table, Claire. That's what happens.

Ami McReynolds: In our debut episode. I am really excited to talk today with Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. Claire and I are going to talk about the systems that are driving poverty and food insecurity, and the very different and changing role that Feeding America can play to help address deep disparities. And finally, we're going to talk about the very powerful ways that communities are and can continue to create sustainable and transformative change.

Ami McReynolds: Claire, welcome! Welcome to our inaugural episode of Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Well, Ami, I am really excited to have this opportunity to talk to you on such an important subject. Thanks for having me.

Ami McReynolds: Thank you for being here. You know, as I sit here today, I was thinking about where do I want to anchor myself for this conversation? I'm working in my home. And I started thinking about over the years, the kitchen table has been an anchoring place for me. It's been a place to connect. When we had family come over, we offer them a cup of coffee and we sit around the kitchen table and talk. And my family, when we've had matters of importance to discuss, we sit down at the kitchen table, we discuss, and we make plans together. So, I would like to welcome you to this virtual kitchen table. Please have a seat and I look forward to having conversation with you this morning about a really important topic and the role that Feeding America is playing to address equity.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Excellent. And now I have a visual and I'm sitting at that table and I'm very, very relaxed. And the only problem is by the end of it, I might expect you to deliver some food, but okay. We'll get started.

Ami McReynolds: So, Claire, I'm curious. Over the past year, in particular, we have heard the term equity in a lot of spaces - in the media, it's come up quite a bit. And I'm curious from your perspective: what does equity mean to you? How would you describe equity?

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Well, I have to say at the outset that I am on a journey that when it comes to equity and that though I am a woman of color, and I certainly have felt a connection to wanting to do something to eradicate racism, et cetera, it's only recently that I've been more purposeful about what does that really mean? What does it look like for me? I'm the CEO of Feeding America. I get to have a bit of an outsized voice in determining what it might mean for Feeding America. And then we're part of this huge network: 200 member food banks, over 60,000 agency partners. Our reach is all across this great nation. I feel that knowing that should, and it has in fact translated into deepening my understanding of my answers to questions like the one that you just posed  So, I'll give it my best shot based upon where I am at this moment with the full acknowledgement that I am a work in progress. 

Ami McReynolds: Absolutely.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: So even this answer, I hope actually, as I mature in this work, I hope that it evolves as well. So, let me talk to you about the way that I look at it. And I'll tell you, I used to confuse the concept of equity with sameness.

I remember so distinctly going to my mom when I was a young lawyer, and I had a team of people that I was leading. And my mom, she was the person I wanted most to impress because she's the person who inspires me to do my very best work and to be my very, very best self. And so, I would go over to my mom and I’d say, “Hey Mom, you won't believe what people at work were saying about me. I overheard some people at work and here's what they said. They were saying, ‘Well, one thing you can say about Claire, she treats everybody the same.’ And my mom said, ‘Well that would be great, baby girl, if they were.’” It just blew my mind. I thought, wow, you mean my goal shouldn't be to treat every single person in the exact same way?

Should I, in the way that I interact with people, acknowledge that they're not the same? Should I open my eyes to the ways that people are different and to the ways that they're differently situated? And my answer is clearly my mom's answer, which is: yes, I should. So, equity work for me is largely about acknowledging the truth of where people are and the obstacles that inhibit their abilities to make progress. And then a second aspect of this work that has just been again, I guess I'm going to talk about getting my mind blown multiple times in this conversation, because I've had so many epiphanies, and I wonder how it was that as a young person, I was so confident in the way that I talked about issues like this. And I reflect on how little I knew then, because I still don't know nearly enough. And I know a lot more today than I did back then. 

Ami McReynolds: Yes. But that's the journey Claire, right? That this is the journey that you talked about early on.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: It sure is. So, then it makes me then pivot to power, right? And, some of what excites me about what we're doing at Feeding America on this journey is that we're really re-thinking power. We’re re-thinking who gets to decide, or as I often say: who's the arbiter and who should be the arbiter of that question? So, we're talking about having our eyes opened, understanding differences in the ways that people are treated and the chances that people have for a better life, and the things that block people from realizing the ideal of the American dream. And then, we're talking on top of that about where is our power as a network? Where's my power as an individual and how do we share that power and how do we sometimes give it away to the people who are going to be most impacted by the decisions that need to be made? That's what equity is for me.

Ami McReynolds: It's a powerful response, speaking of power, and particularly this question and the notion of individual power and the power of this network, and so, a question that comes up for me is this past year, right? If we think about March 2020, and what has transpired over this past year as we think about the pandemic, as we think about the economic fallout from the pandemic, as we think about the heightened re-awareness and awareness in some cases for folks around the fight for racial justice in this country -- how has this past year impacted our mission as an organization? And then, I'm curious your perspective about, as you talk about power and systemic barriers, maybe how has Feeding America been complicit in perpetuating these systems of inequity?

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Hmm. Wow. So, you planning to go deep on this show. 

Ami McReynolds: That’s why we're at the kitchen table, Claire. That’s what happens.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: All right, all right --- like nobody else is listening to this conversation! Well those are really powerful questions. So let me break them down if you will, and I'll talk first about what 2020 has done, and then second, about some of those revelations around maybe how I have to start with me, how I have perpetuated systemic racism and how our systems are really built to perpetuate it. And so therefore, our network is certainly a part of that as well. So, first, 2020. 

I joined Feeding America in October of 2018. And so I've been on this learning journey, I'm still on it as I've acknowledged before, but I started getting access to data points that talked about things like, what are the various factors that impact whether or not you're going to be food insecure? So, I knew things like, the people that we serve are far more likely to work on the front lines,

Ami McReynolds: Yes, yes.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: ...to interact and engage with the public, far more likely to rely upon the restaurant industry to get their food, sometimes because they're working, well oftentimes, because they're working inside of the restaurant and sometimes they get access to meals because they work there, by the way. But also, because when you drive through communities that are stricken by poverty, you see the food that they have access to. And sometimes if you’re in an urban center, you see what it means to live inside of a food swamp, which is, a food swamp is about what you do have access to, right? So, all of these, the options that just don't have a lot of nutritional density to them. 

And you go into rural America, and I’ve spent a lot of time traveling through this country, especially since I've been in this role, driving through the country -- go into rural America and you see that the food desert as well, where you're looking for, where am I going to go find fresh produce? And you think about, oh my goodness, wait, this is the place where they actually grow the produce, but the people who live here don't have access to it. So, I'm working through the irony of all of that. I'm working through all of that stuff. I'm gathering all of this data. And then I started learning about the coronavirus and COVID-19, started piecing together what it was going to mean. Whom it was that was going to be most impacted and, it's just, the lights started going off in my head. And usually when the lights go off, that's a good thing. 

In this case, it was horrifying, because I knew that the people that we serve were going to be inordinately impacted by every bad thing related to this doggone virus, to this pandemic, everything you cut across. The economic impact was going to be deepest and greatest on already vulnerable communities, the health impacts were going to be deepest and greatest on vulnerable communities. And then when I looked at it and I also knew inside of vulnerable communities, there are communities that are inordinately vulnerable. So, you already have a group of people who are vulnerable. And there's a spectrum of people inside of that group. But I knew, even at the beginning of this pandemic, that communities of color are two times more likely to suffer from food insecurity, and then started looking and seeing hospitalization rates go up. And I knew; I knew what else that was going to mean.

So, it really helped to inspire me in that horror. To think about the second part of your question. We were already on a learning journey. We had contracted with a consulting firm. We know we're not experts, and we contracted with a consulting firm. We started thinking about how to unravel the systems that we have built ourselves inside of Feeding America. And we started seeing, in stark relief, what some of those systems were, and one of the principal ones, Ami, is around power. 

Ami McReynolds: Yes. 

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Who gets to decide, I mean, we have been a very paternalistic organization. We've had the money, if you will. So even as it related to our members, whom we've always cared deeply for, we've been very paternalistic with our members. 

So, we tell them, you get to have this money, if you jump through this hoop and then turn a flip and then do a cartwheel. And then you have to have whip precision land right on this dime. Instead of going to them in co-creative partnership and starting by asking them: what do you need? How do we work together to get the things that you need? What kind of role should we play in making that happen? And when is it time for us to sit back, listen and learn? 

So, it was clear that we were doing that as a part, that we built this hierarchical system inside of the Feeding America network, where the national office in which I served directly really was throwing its weight around a whole lot. I got to tell you, and though good, hardworking, dedicated people, wrong minded, wrong focused in that regard. So, we've had to really look long and hard at ourselves. And then we saw by extension, we do that with the communities that we serve. So, we think we know what they need. Why? Did we ask them? No, but we think we know what they need. 

Ami McReynolds: Right. 

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: So, it's really been a seismic shift in the way that we're looking at our work. So I know that it's an oft used and maybe overused, even cliché, but I've got to tell you, COVID-19, this pandemic, it is a dark, dark, dark cloud to be sure, but there are silver linings here. Knowledge is a silver lining, you know, awareness is a silver lining, or actually, it has a potential of being one. The key will be with eyes more open comes a responsibility to do better. As they say, when you know better, you do better. Well, actually, sometimes we don't do better even when we know better. Let's make this not be one of those sometimes. Let's make this one of those times that we learn.  And then we do something with these learnings, and we use them, we build momentum and we become better because we do.

Ami McReynolds: Hear, hear Claire. You talked a lot about power, right? How it's used in paternalistic ways, to ask people to jump through hoops. We haven't yet talked about inclusion and how inclusion and power go together. And I'm just curious, there is a, you talked about the data that you looked at. There is a visual that I will often use in discussions about why we're addressing racial equity in our work. And it's a visual that the USDA has put together, which looks at the rate of food insecurity for the past two decades so for 20 years. And this visual also looks at the rate of food insecurity by race and ethnicity. And over the past two decades, pick a year, you choose, the food insecurity rates for Black and Hispanic communities on this chart are always two to two and a half times higher than the overall rate of food insecurity. And so I asked the question of, given this, you know, the USDA has been collecting this for two decades and food insecurity rates have persistently been higher for communities of color, what role do you think Feeding America can play in addressing those disparities? How are we rising to meet the moment? How are we using our knowledge and awareness in focused action?

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Hmm. Wow. Well, first off, they’re things that members have been doing for a very long time that, that we could have been modeling a long time ago had we been paying better attention, and we've been able already to, explicitly working with our members, to design some new systems about how we'd even distribute funds during the pandemic. As a consequence, we were able to direct almost $80 million last year specifically, explicitly, toward making certain to send those funds to the communities that are most inordinately impacted by food insecurity. So, we were applying that equity lens and some of the things the members came up with to use that money for is fabulous, innovative, creative and scalable. So, can you tell, I'm a little excited about this, Ami?!

Ami McReynolds: I'm just thinking Claire, like, let's just pause there for a minute. You know, I've been with Feeding America for 10 years and I've been part of these systems that have been complicit. And now, I've been on my journey as well. And I just want to pause and say the fact that there has been a desire that our membership has said when we haven't been paternalistic and said: How would you like to support your communities? How do you want to support communities of color within your, in your areas? How do you want to support the most vulnerable communities in your area? That there was this request to use almost $80 million to do that. Like, that is huge, and I just want to acknowledge that that is a turning point in our history as a network.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Oh, you, you are absolutely right. And, and it's part of the reason that I'm so excited about the other work that we're doing, which I know we were announcing the work that we're going to be doing around the equity fund. Because this insight of that work is it fences this knowledge, this learning journey that we've been on, that we have a better understanding of how powerful it is to add chairs to tables, to go into communities with people, to acknowledge that, I as a discreet individual, or we as a national organization, we do not have all the answers to the questions that are most daunting for people facing hunger and for communities of color. And that so often the people inside of those communities, they both know what the right question is --and sometimes we don't even know the right question, Ami -- 

Ami McReynolds: Right, we’re not asking the right question.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: We’re not asking the right question, exactly. Sometimes it's the question, which is important. And a lot of time though, it is if we come to them thinking we already know the answer. That's not the way that we're going to be engaging with this equity fund. This equity fund is an empowerment fund at its core. It's a fund that's designed to take this remarkable gift that we've been endowed with in the spirit that it was given. MacKenzie Scott is not a person I've ever met in person, but she has impacted so many lives of so many people who've never seen it before. And one of the ways is that she's going to help us to be better and to do better, and I'm inspired by her when we think about how we're going to be utilizing the seed money, that we are positioned as an organization to put up $20 million.

I mean, think about that $20 million. And that that money is going to go into local communities and that we are not going to be at the command position at a table;  we will hope to earn a seat at a table that has a lot of new people sitting around that table. People who have long understood what ails their own communities, who have long understood what the real solutions would be for the issues that plague their communities. And we're going to be there listening. We're going to be there learning. We're going to be there giving everything that we can give to that work and learning from them. We're going to be led through their instruction and their direction rather than the 180-degree different approach that we have sometimes taken.

I underscore one more time, there'll be people maybe who will listen to this, who might be a part of those systems. And who might even have been a part of those systems inside of the Feeding America network. I don't speak as I do about us in a way that's designed to say, wag my finger, and say, shame on shame on Feeding America. Feeding America is a remarkable network that has done fabulous things for decades. For decades. And we are a network comprised of human beings who get a chance to learn every day. And as we learn, we can improve upon what we did yesterday. And that's what this is really all about. It's more about learning from the past so that we can move forward differently. And had we cracked the code on these issues, had the way that we've been doing it all of this time been working, then I wouldn't have been sitting in horror as I was listening to the statistics come in about who was going to be hardest hit by this virus. It would have been equally distributed across our communities and we all know that's not true, so something's not working. So, let's go about this differently and let's figure out ways, new ways, for things to work.

Ami McReynolds: Yes. What do we have to lose? What did we have to gain by working differently? As what I often will think about?

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Absolutely. We have so much to gain. No, no matter what happens, I will be proud that I got to participate in a process that's designed to do what this is designed to do. And way too often I hear people speak of inclusion in ways that aren't at all inclusive. When you, if you want it to be so that in a country that can be one where a person like me, who is the granddaughter sharecroppers, whose parents didn't graduate from high school, who can go on in this country and attain the things that I've been able get, the chances to do the things that I have been able to do. If you want that to be a path that any of us could have in this country, have it be the rule, have it be the rule that hard work and dedication equals this outcome. We need to reckon with the fact that that is not currently the rule. It's not, and we all have a vested interest in making it a rule. So, I hope that this will be one of those 100% issues that when people understand better, they'll realize that work like this is not designed to remove chairs from tables, but to add some. That it's about abundance, not scarcity. I'm so, so optimistic about where, where this can go; I truly am. Not only in my official capacity, but as an individual as well.

Ami McReynolds: Yes. Yes. And you've talked a lot about the individual journey and our journey as a network throughout this, our entire discussion. Claire, what I hear you say about the Equity Impact Fund is that it is a catalyst, right? It is meant to help catalyze, to jumpstart more seats at the table. To jumpstart the ability to have community-based organizations engage and help create, co-create, the solutions that they already know. They already know.

I'm going to give a shout out. Vaughn Perry at the 11th Street Bridge Park Project that is part of building bridges across the river in Washington, DC. As part of my journey, I met with Vaughn, I don't know, maybe a year and a half ago, and we talked about their 10-year journey around equity for the 11th Street Bridge Park Project. And for those who may not be familiar, the Bridge Park is intended to be a park that goes from the Naval Yards in DC into the Anacostia community. And the small amount of water that currently separates those communities might as well be an ocean when you think about the opportunities that are available to people who live in those communities, when you think about access to food and healthcare and education, and opportunities for building financial stability through home ownership.

Vaughn said to me, “All the answers live within communities.” We just need to be able to ask community leaders, support community leaders and be able to put together solutions that they already know will work, because as you said they know the questions to ask. We're not coming in and asking the right questions. And I have learned over my career getting to the right question is key to getting to the answer.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Yeah, I absolutely agree. And asking the right person the right question, right? It all works together for the good when you're intentional about all of it. And I've witnessed and been alongside you on your own journey and I must tell you, I was impressed with you when I met you in 2018. But the level of inspiration that I get from you, the confidence that I have in you and in your work multiplies by the day. I'm excited that you will be with me, that I will have your back, that you will have mine. And more importantly, that we will collectively have the backs of people of color and of vulnerable communities across this country. So that's a really big deal for me. And I'm so grateful that I'm going to get the opportunity to work even more closely with you in the future than I have in the past, Ami, and again, I hope that you're okay with that.

Ami McReynolds: I'm more than okay with that Claire. I am really energized by it and excited. And I think it says a lot that, I know you Claire, I know you to be someone who is always asking about what are the best practices, right? What are the best practices for this to help inform our work? And, uh, you have taken action around a best practice, which is about having this important work around equity report into the CEO. That it's part of your agenda when I know you have lots of things that you are focused on as well as you help move the organization, as you serve as a leader for this network and our movement. So, it is an honor to be with you iron sharpening iron on this journey together.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Well, thank you very much. I didn't know exactly what you're going to say. This is one of the facets of doing podcasts like this. But I'm glad I'm happy to hear what your answer is. And I know you'd be an honest person. So, I think I sat up a little bit higher, my backs straightened, when you said that Ami McReynolds, thank you. That feels good for me and I'm just so excited to get to be on this journey with you. I'm excited I get to be on this journey with our members. Good people, hardworking people, mission-driven people, people who step into the gap all of the time. People who during COVID, you know, if we can talk about that just a little bit about some of the more tactical challenges. So, during COVID we saw significant increases in demand, right? People saw those images of 10,000 cars in a parking lot in San Antonio.

Ami McReynolds: I was going to say that seems like an understatement Claire, to say demand increases.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Yes, exactly. I can't find the right word for it. I don't want to keep saying unprecedented, but it was unprecedented, right. What people may not be aware of is that while this is going on, while we have this explosion in need, alongside that, one of the principal places that we have historically gotten food from has actually been retailers. And I want the people listening in to remember the images of this pandemic and retail shelves. Remember trying to get stuff from stores, grocery stores; they were empty. Well, if those shelves are empty, that means they're not giving it to us.

So, our members are seeing people come to them for help; they're desperate to be helpful and they're seeing a contraction in their supply. And then we have all of these system issues where things started breaking down in the system itself. Our members had to go out and buy food where they normally would not have had to buy food. So against all of that, you would think, think about all those headwinds, those headwinds would normally result in you barely being able to maintain what you did last year. But not our members. 

Ami McReynolds: Right.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: They provided an extra billion meals. That's with a “b,” Ami, a “b.” And you know, this brings me to something else that I've, I've never talked publicly or semi publicly about. I grew up in a devoutly religious family and I still continue to be a person of faith and that's the foundation for me. And as a part of the way that I was raised, if you will, I was taught that you should try to do good in the world, but you shouldn't talk about it. Right? Uh, you shouldn't toot your own horn. You shouldn't, especially not in giving. 

Ami McReynolds: Right. Right.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: You give quietly, silently. And even my family and I, we’ve developed a practice of giving anonymously through the years. But this is the first year that we've decided that we're going to, that it's important to talk about some of our personal giving and we've committed $200,000 to this very work that we're talking about right now. 

Ami McReynolds: Wow.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: And I have so much confidence, as do the other members of my family. My husband Barry, oh my goodness gracious. We don't have enough time for me to talk about Barry Fontenot, but suffice it to say, wow. Wow. So, but my husband and I, we think a lot about what are the ways that we can make an impact, a positive impact, on the world. And, while this is 1% of the $20 million that we're talking about, it's designed more than anything else to show support for this work and to have personal skin in this game.

So, we're going to make that gift to Feeding America. And we've, we're going to direct our $100,000 toward the place where we live, which is the greater Chicago area. Nicole and the team [at Greater Chicago Food Depository], they are doing remarkable work right now on the ground, inside of communities of color. We want to be a part of that work and no strings, no. I have such confidence in their leadership that we'll be providing $100,000 to that for that work. And then, I often talk about one of the benefits of being a part of investing in our network is you can invest in the national work. Of course, where we try to assess, have a finger on the pulse, of where the challenges are, and then move the resources to where they're needed the most.

But you can also make decisions like, I want to invest in this community that I love so much. I love Chicago. I don't know what it is about Chicago, there's something in the water here, but I love this place. So, we want to invest in Chicago and in equity here in the city. But we don't forget where we're from. 

My husband and I are both from a small town in Southwest Louisiana called Opelousas, and the other $100,000 will be going there. And I've talked to the remarkable leaders of, to the team out of, Second Harvest of New Orleans and Acadiana. And they've talked to me about some of the things they have in mind for that. And with one of the things that felt so right for me was that part of what they're talking about doing with those resources is to invest in Black farmers. And Opelousas, okay, so most people don't know how to pronounce it. Many people will never have heard about it before. So, they certainly won't know what I know, which is that I marched in something called the Yambilee Parade when I was in the band. And I went to Yambilee Fair and after I was married, our wedding reception was at the Yambilee Auditorium. 

Ami McReynolds: I'm hoping there are photos of all of these things. 

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: [laughter] There might be, but you're not getting them in your hands. You don't need blackmail material, ma’am, no thank you. But all of this centered on the yam, right, which was our proxy for the sweet potato. When I was growing up, the tagline for the city of Opelousas was, I believe, it's the sweet potato capital of the world. That is no longer what Opelousas says about itself. It's no longer who Opelousas is. We now do Tony Chachere’s Seasoning and lots of seasoning so I think we might be the creole seasoning capital of the world. I wish that we were known for being both maybe. And what's happened with Indigenous peoples, with Black people, with communities of color and our forceful disconnection from the land. It has had far reaching implications. So, I'm so excited that Barry and I get to invest in the rejuvenation of that. Especially since it'll be in our hometown, and maybe someone will let me dig a sweet potato and eat it again in the vicinity of Opelousas one day.

Ami McReynolds: Well, I hope I can join you in that. I love a good sweet potato. And you and Barry in the family are sowing personal seeds here, like again to be catalysts around this work. You're demonstrating the confidence in our network's ability to engage in this equity work within their local communities and to make a huge difference. So, thank you for sharing that, Claire.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Thank you.

Ami McReynolds: Claire, as we come to the close of our conversation, you know, I have a question. If you can close your eyes and imagine it might be March 2031, so 10 years from now.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Okay.

Ami McReynolds: What is your hope or vision for either what the Equity Impact Fund might be able to do, or our collective work around equity might be able to do 10 years from now? What does it look like from your perspective? What's happening? What's different?

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Well, first off, I really am literally closing my eyes right now, and I have this visual and the visual is this beautiful mosaic. I am envisioning gathering spaces inside of communities that reflect the beautiful enriched diversity of those communities. I have a sense in this visualization of, a feeling that everyone around that table has a voice that matters. And the leaders at the table are the people who are most impacted by the decisions that are going to be made there. If I, if I pan out from that specific spot, I see rich activity happening inside of the community. I see a return of economic engines inside of the community. I see people playing together, laughing together, eating together, learning together in that community. I don't see a perfect community in 10 years, but I see one that's leveraging who it is, and that's really, really asking questions. The right questions, and having those questions answered by the right people.

So, I believe in quantitative terms, that within 10 years, Ami, that we can definitely have far fewer people struggling with food insecurity. I believe in less than 10, it took about 10 years to return to pre-recession rates of food insecurity after the economic downturn of 2008. I envision a future for this country where that does not, it doesn't take us nearly that long this time, that in half the time we can get there at least, but that, that beneath the surface of that number is meaningful progress in unlocking the remarkable resources that are right at our fingertips inside of diverse communities. And that we're addressing the, some of the most virulent forms of food insecurity. That we're starting to break generational cycles of food insecurity. I can see all that happen within 10 years. So, it's a future that's not perfect, but that's quite lovely.

Ami McReynolds: Well, I closed my eyes right along with you, Claire so that I could envision, and I hope that our listeners were able to close their eyes and think about what that could look like. And I hope that they will share with us their ideas about, what does that future look like 10 years from now. Claire, I just want to thank you so much for making time to join me today, and our listeners, as we wrap up on this inaugural episode of Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger. You are welcomed back to my kitchen table any time I will make sure I have snacks for you. I know that's important.

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: [laughter] It certainly is!

Ami McReynolds: Maybe some bacon at the kitchen table?

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: You know, me way too well. And yes, yes, for the audience, I know that I should at most eat bacon sparingly, but I will admit that I kinda love it. I kinda love it. Thank you so much, Ami. With this podcast, it's one of the ways that we get to invest in your vision and your leadership, and I'm honored that I get to be a part of that too.

Ami McReynolds: Thank you for joining today, Claire. 

Claire Babineaux-Fontenot: Thank you.


Ami McReynolds: Thank you so much for listening to Elevating Voices, Ending Hunger today. If you enjoyed the conversation that I had with Claire Babineaux-Fontenot or want to learn more about food insecurity and what Feeding America is doing to address equity and food insecurity, visit feedingamerica.org. If you enjoyed the show today, please share it with others and be sure to subscribe so that you can know when new episodes are available. I'm Ami McReynolds, and I look forward to seeing you at our next episode.