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Teens Take Their Advocacy to the Hill to Fight Hunger

August 11, 2010

Teens Take their Advocacy to Capitol Hill

For five days teens participate in advocacy, hands on service and lobbying at Capitol Hill

On June 24 - 28, 72 teens from 49 communities across the country came to Washington, DC, to take on today’s most pressing hunger issues. They participated in PB & J: Poverty, Bread and Justice, a Jewish Teen Summit on Hunger, a program offered by the PANIM Institute of BBYO. PB & J throws the cliché model of service (making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) on its head. During the five days in DC the teens participated in all the steps toward social change: learning the facts, finding the need, serving, organizing and advocating.

In DC the teens met with food and poverty policy experts, advocacy experts from multiple faith-based organizations and Members of Congress. To have a picture of the whole story of food, in addition to learning the statistics and the political context, the teens also got to learn first hand about where their food comes from by participating in hands on service at Kayam Organic Farm.

PB & J is a Panim el Panim experience offered by the PANIM Institute of BBYO in cooperation with American Jewish World Service, Hazon, Jewish Council on Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America, Kayam Organic Farm, Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and Telem. The seminar was kicked off with keynote speaker, and partner, Nigel Savage, the founder of Hazon. Mr. Savage challenged the teens to learn about food, where it comes from before it is served and how they can shape change with their choices.

The teens also participated in the Telem led program, Making Choices: A Shopping Simulation. This activity divided the teens into smaller groups responsible for shopping for a week’s worth of groceries for a family of four with $100 at either a mainstream supermarket or a convenience store. The activity highlighted the true cost of “convenience” and the sacrifices a family on a tighter budget would have to make.

All of the programs, speakers and simulations were designed to help the teens to answer these thematic questions prior to their visit to Capitol Hill:

  • How does what I eat impact the environment?
  • What is Kosher, and why does it matter?
  • How can I promote healthy eating?
  • How can I fight hunger?

On the Hill the teens championed their own ideas on how to repair America’s hunger crisis, and asked their Members of Congress to pledge support to the American Power Act, Global Food Security Act and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act. Their appointments were a terrific final step in the learning process and encouraged the teens to continue their advocacy work. In fact, two teens were offered internships with their Congressmen.

PB & J is new program for the PANIM Institute of BBYO. It is an extension of PANIM’s premier program, Panim el Panim, but it unique because it focuses on a specific topic of real interest to teens today instead of a general approach. Since 1988, over 16,000 teens from more than 200 communities have traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in Panim el Panim. Each seminar brings together diverse groups of 10th-12th grade students from around the country who have shown a commitment to leadership and service in their schools, youth groups and communities.

“PB & J opened my eyes to global and domestic hunger and poverty issues and gave me invaluable tools to make my opinion known in the world. I feel more confident that I can personally help fulfill Tikkun Olam, the Jewish responsibility to Repair the World, and that the amazing people I met in DC will be with me every step of the way,” said Laurel Cohen, a high school student from Maitland, Florida.

For twenty years, PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values has been empowering Jewish teens to a lifetime of activism, leadership and service. Now, as a division of BBYO, PANIM offers its high-quality content and experiences to significantly more Jewish institutions and teens, creating a movement of young activists ready to take on the challenges facing society and the Jewish community.

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