Another perspective on hunger in Colorado was unveiled last week when photographs, taken by residents of the San Luis Valley, were displayed for the first time in Alamosa. They are all participants—the real-life experts—of an advocacy project called Hunger Through My Lens, which started in Denver, and is now expanding to other areas around the state.
Five participants shared their photographs to tell personal stories about how hunger affects them, their families and their communities. The San Luis Valley project’s photo exhibit is on display at Milagros Coffeehouse through the end of November.
John Reesor, Director of the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, spoke during the exhibit opening, sharing, “If you would like to see for yourself the magnitude of food insecurity that exists in this community, you just need to go to the corner of State and 6th. Here, every day before our [food] pantry is open, you will see a line that forms outside and wraps around our building. Generally, people start to gather 30 minutes to an hour outside our doors and the lineup is usually 10 to 30 people long.”
Hunger Through My Lens, a project facilitated by Hunger Free Colorado, LaPuente Home and the Food Bank Network of the San Luis Valley, aims to shed light on the reality of hunger in Colorado. It is based on the photovoice model, a form of participatory action research that has been widely used in academic and other fields. Digital cameras are the main medium for participants to express themselves and put real stories to the overwhelming statistics surrounding hunger and food insecurity. The participants maintain rights to all of their photographs.
“This project is powerful in allowing those who are struggling with hunger to not only use their voices, but to realize that they have voices,” said Bethany Howell, Director of Communications and Engagement at La Puente Home.
“So often it is easier to sweep uncomfortable problems under the rug, or to point fingers at each other. This project allows the participants to decide what they want others to see, and as neighbors and fellow community members, it becomes harder to then ignore their humanity,” she added.
The group of participants includes three women and two men of varying ages, locations and backgrounds. They range in age from late 20s to mid-60s and reside in local areas, such as San Luis, Garland, Blanca and Alamosa. Their photographs and stories shared through the Hunger Through My Lens exhibit, showcase their experiences coping with health issues, geographic isolation, lack of public transportation, raising children on their own and high unemployment due to lack of available jobs—and how hunger has impacted their lives.
Traveling exhibits of Hunger Through My Lens will display the participants’ photographs at locations around our state, providing community members and policymakers with the opportunity to experience everyday life from their perspective. It also allows individuals to engage in critical dialogue not only about the issue but sustainable solutions that can ensure all Coloradans have access to needed nutrition through healthy, affordable food.
“The participants’ photographs provide tangible evidence that there is a need to face the impacts of hunger on individuals, families and communities throughout Colorado,” shared Hunger Free Colorado Executive Director Kathy Underhill. “We must change how we view and understand the issue of hunger—from suburban to rural areas—and we need to include individuals impacted by the issue in solving the problem across our state.”