MILWAUKEE – Former Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, is the keynote speaker for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s annual Grateful Plate Gala.
Cousin, who served in the role from 2012 – 2017, will enthusiastically encourage everyone within earshot to support the “absolutely critical work” of local food banks.
“What I hope the audience leaves with is a renewed sense of purpose and opportunity,” Cousin said during a conversation with WTMJ. “To not talk about the problem of hunger in America but to begin to solve it.”
Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin is the largest food bank in the state, serving 35 counties and distributing more than 50 million pounds of food annually.
“We have a broken food system that is leaving many unable to afford access to nutritious food,” she added. “(Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin) serves as a safety net to ensure that no person falls through and that no child is hungry.
“What’s exciting about this organization is that they’ve stepped up to the challenge of providing that emergency assistance, as well as begin to answer the challenges of the structural issues that are creating the hunger in these communities.”
Nearly half-a-million Wisconsinites are considered food insecure, and almost 200,000 of them are children. Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin supplies food directly to 400 pantries across the state to ensure access in as many areas as possible.
“Many of the people who find themselves in a food bank line are working every day. Not just one job but often two jobs,” Cousin said. “Because of the lack of living wages for these individuals, those paychecks don’t cover the food needs for the entire family.”
Expanding beyond food drives, the dual-campus non-profit (Milwaukee and Appleton) has invested more time and resources into specific programs, meeting community needs. As an organization, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin executes distributions targeted at specific under-served groups, including Tribal Elders, Hmong Farmers and expecting parents in Milwaukee.
There is an organizational emphasis on sourcing locally, helping to support Wisconsin farms as well.
“Ambassador Cousin’s keynote address is a unique opportunity for supporters to learn about food-insecurity on the global scale, and what we can do here locally to affect change in our own communities,” said Jessecca Miller, Events Manager of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. “If you can’t attend the gala in person, you can still support the cause and the community by bidding on unique prizes though our online silent auction.”
A $1 donation provides four local meals, due to the buying power of the food bank. The 19th Annual Grateful Plate Gala will raise enough money to secure more than one million meals.