A new traveling exhibit about hunger will stop in Phoenix Jan. 2-3 as part of a 10-month national tour that brings Americans face to face with the stark realities of hunger in the United States.
“This Is Hunger,” commissioned by MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, will be on display 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 2, and 1-6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, at Temple Chai, 4645 E. Marilyn Road, Phoenix. The exhibit is free, but reservations are required. Tickets are available at thisishunger.org/the-tour.
“We felt that it was really important to ground people’s awareness of hunger and the reality of who struggles with hunger in America and why,” Abby Leibman, MAZON president and CEO, told Jewish News.
The exhibit is more than three years in the making and began by MAZON asking photojournalist Barbara Grover to travel across America to photograph and interview people who found themselves struggling with food insecurity.
“When we had the photos and the interviews, we realized it was such an enormous and compelling resource that we wanted to find a way to share it throughout our community,” said Liebman.
MAZON worked with members of the creative team behind the acclaimed “Noah’s Ark” exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. “This Is Hunger” uses state-of-the-art storytelling techniques, black and white portraits and interactive elements to tell the stories of dozens of Americans who struggle with hunger.
The exhibit is housed in a 53-foot-long double expandable semitrailer that opens to nearly 1,000 square feet of interior space. Inside the truck is a very large table that seats 30 people and during a presentation, those interviewed by Grover are virtually sitting at the table.
“In essence, you are having a dinner-table conversation with people who are struggling with hunger,” Liebman said.
The entire experience, which is appropriate for ages 12 and older, Leibman said, takes about 30 minutes, which includes the presentation and time for discussion and additional activities within the truck.
Forty-two million Americans – more than one in eight people of all ethnicities and ages – struggle with hunger, according to MAZON. In Maricopa County, food insecurity is higher than the national average, with 15.8 percent of households having difficulty in providing enough food for their families, and 24.7 percent of children experiencing hunger.
“We are dedicating a lot of our energy to our obligation, ‘You shall not remain indifferent,’ ” said Rabbi Mari Chernow of Temple Chai, in an email. “That includes housing homeless families, collecting thousands of pounds of food throughout the year, providing housewares for refugees and in this case, learning about hunger. MAZON is the leading voice in offering a Jewish response to hunger. We are proud to welcome their installation to our property so that the community can learn and become empowered to help.”
Temple Chai is working with the Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s office on the project, said Joe Miller, Temple Chai executive director.
“This Is Hunger” is traveling to more than 30 cities, including Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago and San Francisco. After its Phoenix stop, it will continue to Tucson through Jan. 8.
“We hope people will walk away with a much greater understanding of the reality of hunger in America,” Liebman said.
“We can bust some of the mythology that gets promulgated in popular media about how people become food insecure and then what their lives are like when they are food insecure and then we want people to be moved to activism.
“It’s one thing to be moved and emotional, but it’s quite another thing to take that emotion and turn it into positive action for change.”
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, founded in 1985, is a national nonprofit working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds in the United States and Israel. Visit mazon.org.