"Kids do grow up happy in Camden. I did. I came out fine." - Photo and voice by Beatrize, a Witness to Hunger
The USDA reported last week that more than one in five American children under the age of six lives in a household where caregivers may not have enough money to afford enough food for an active, healthy life. Later this month, the U.S. Census Bureau is due to release its latest reports on the nation’s poverty rate.
Such statistics about poverty and food insecurity are arresting, but all too often, they are hard to understand in the context of real people’s lives and communities.
In Camden, N.J. – a city often proclaimed one of America’s most impoverished and most dangerous – ten mothers and grandmothers want to show, through personal and powerful photographs, what these statistics really mean and what can be done about them.
Through their desire for social change, the women of Camden have opened a lens on hunger, homelessness, health and a broad swath of issues related to poverty. Their photos and interview-based testimony, collected as part of the “Witnesses to Hunger” project based at the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University School of Public Health, will be on public display in Camden for the first time this month.
Gallery Eleven One (339 N. Front Street, Suite B, Camden, N.J.) will feature the free, public exhibit from Sept. 18 to 21. (Wednesday, 1:30-7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Saturday noon to 5 p.m.)
The public exhibit kicks off with a panel discussion about housing and hunger, at nearby Rutgers Camden on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at noon. Attendees may register at https://witnesseshousingpanel.eventbrite.com/.
Many of the Witnesses will be in attendance to discuss their photographs and their experiences at an opening reception at the gallery on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 5 to 9 p.m. Attendees may RSVP for the free reception at https://camdenwitnessesexhibit.eventbrite.com/.
By photographing their lives and families, Witnesses frame their own perspectives of what it will take to address poverty and hunger in their community and across the country. Camden’s Witnesses to Hunger photographs provide unique and searing insight on a wide range of topics from their every-day experiences—including food and hunger; housing and homelessness; experiences with the welfare system; employment and education; and violence and safety.
Camden’s ten Witnesses to Hunger began taking photos this January and debuted their photos in June at a private exhibit held at the world headquarters of the Campbell’s Soup Company.
"Witnesses to Hunger" was developed in 2008 by Dr. Mariana Chilton, an associate professor and director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel, as a community-based participatory action research project to document the complex issues surrounding food insecurity, poverty and children’s health. Chilton formed this project to ensure that parents and caregivers of young children who have experienced poverty and hunger first-hand are participating in the national dialogue on child poverty and hunger. The Witnesses – now hailing from sites in Philadelphia, across Pennsylvania, Boston, Baltimore and Camden -- use digital cameras to frame the issues most important to them and their children. They use photographs and testimony to inform policymakers to make changes in their communities.
For more information about the Camden Witnesses to Hunger, view selected biographies and photos at http://www.centerforhungerfreecommunities.org/our-projects/witnesses-hunger/meet-the-real-experts.