Sometimes Midlands artists seem to have an innate need to care for others that not everyone can relate to.
It’s not uncommon for local artists and arts organizations, many of which could use funding themselves, to come together to address a problem in the social matrix that has left community members hungry, cold or homeless.
Visual artist, Bohumila Augustinova, for example, regularly collects warm socks in the winter to donate to a local ministry for the chronically homeless. Tapp’s Arts Center, once located in the heart of downtown Columbia, seemed to continually place cardboard boxes near the booth to collect donations of a variety of items, including art supplies, including some one less fortunate might need. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts-minded owners of Curiosity Coffee Bar provided easy opportunities for patrons to pre-purchase groceries for unfamiliar neighbors to enjoy when their own cupboards were empty.
From toy drives to canned food campaigns, artists regularly use their talents and community connections to serve as a catalyst to meet the needs of those who have gone through difficult times.
In a new project developed to fight hunger in the capital, a group of concerned citizens, artists and civilians, rely on the kindness of literary artists to meet the needs of their neighbors in a unique and generous way.
The brainchild of novelist and social worker Carla Damron, “Food for Thought” is a literary and social justice partnership with two specific goals: to celebrate the literary arts and feed hungry Midlanders.
To engage with the Food for Thought project, writers of all experience levels are invited to submit their food-related compositions – poems, essays and fiction – to a central email address where they will be reviewed and selected for submissions. published on social media and the Food for Thought website. Unlike most literature appeals, there is no consideration fee, but Mutual Aid Midlands is asking that instead of the typical submission fee, writers donate food or currency to help combat hunger in our region.
What does food mean to you? It’s a simple question that is usually answered with little introspection producing answers like sustenance, health, and comfort.
But Damron and the folks at Mutual Aid Midlands ask the question and ask us to dig deeper within ourselves to engage our inner poets and prose writers to make a more meaningful connection between food and our own sense of well-being and purpose. .
“I love how writing can open minds to important social justice issues,” Damron said. “We hope people will take this opportunity to enjoy having a full stomach and think about hunger and food insecurity. How does it feel to go to school on an empty stomach? Have three kids to feed and nothing in the fridge? Need help from a food bank but have no way to get there?
The history of Mutual Aid Midlands dates back to March 2020 when the pandemic was announced, says Mutual Aid Midlands volunteer Debbie Billings.
“A group of people, many with backgrounds in public health, knew that (COVID) would be really bad for people in vulnerable situations – low income, people of color and immigrants, especially undocumented people. said Billings. “We used the Self Help Framework as a way to organize and establish the basic principles of how to work, focusing in particular on the fact that we are not engaged in charity, but rather in true mutual aid where everyone involved learns and benefits in different ways.”
The Agape Table association serves as the fiscal sponsor for the group of volunteers. There are no paid employees.
The submission criteria for Food for Thought states that no more than three poems should be included per submission, flash fiction should be 1,000 words or less, and essays should not exceed 5,000 words. All should be emailed to [email protected]
Although donations are deeply appreciated, they are not compulsory and “100% of all donations to Mutual Aid Midlands are used to feed our neighbors who are struggling with food insecurity,” says Damron.
Cash donations can be made to https://theagapetable.kindful.com, (selected campaign for Mutual Aid Midlands), but donations to local food banks are also encouraged and participants are encouraged to send photos of their donation to be shared on the website as well. Submissions opened on April 12.
Cindi Boiter is a writer, editor and arts advocate. She is the founding editor of Jasper magazine and the literary journal Fall Lines and executive director of The Jasper Project.