Freedom, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are traditionally celebrated with barbecues and fireworks on the Fourth of July. But the struggle continues for some among us. “If the virus doesn’t kill us, hunger will” says, Shayista Gul as she addresses one of the world’s most urgent issues: food insecurity (NCR, 2020). Food insecurity, the lack of access to nutritious and affordable food, affects families worldwide every single day. According to a report by Hunger Free America, between 2015-2017, 302,685 residents of Philadelphia, Pa lived in food insecure households which translates to one out of five people of the total population. Experts predict that food insecurity will continue to spread because of COVID-19. Nonetheless, there are, “heroes of hope and impact” on the front lines everyday fighting against food insecurity. Barbie Izquierdo is one of them.
Barbie Izquierdo started advocating against food insecurity and fighting for food justice issues thirteen years ago. “I speak out and share my experiences of trying to raise two kids while earning less than minimum wage, having a job then losing a job and trying to go to school all at the same time. I am lobbying for food assistance programs and to bring awareness to what would happen if budget cuts are made to them. I know true change cannot happen if no one talks about it.” And she does more than just talk about it.
Barbie has been featured in a documentary called, “A Place At The Table”, where her day to day struggle with food insecurity was filmed for two years. LA Times says the documentary “may rank among the most moving in that it tackles a seemingly straightforward, solvable problem: hunger in the United States.” The documentary has made a lasting impression. Barbie says, “People that watch the documentary to this day reach out to me on Instagram, Facebook or Linked In. They send me the most incredible messages.”
Barbie has been the keynote speaker at the Whitehouse alongside President Joe Biden and has testified before Congress and at Capitol Hill. She travels nationally speaking on food insecurity, childhood obesity and nutrition. In 2015, Barbie graduated from Esperanza College of Eastern University with an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice. Barbie says, “I was that person who thought I couldn’t be successful, and couldn’t go to college, but I did it. I was a part of the Honor’s Society, Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated with excellent grades. I think a lot of people can relate to that.”
Today, Barbie is enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University studying Criminology and continues her fight against food insecurity as a Community Empowerment Manager at Hunger Free America. She is truly a “hero of esperanza and impact”.
Hovring.Roald. “If the virus doesn’t kill us, hunger will.” Sept. 2020. “If the virus doesn’t kill us, hunger will”. NRC
Hunger Free America. “Philadelphia hunger jumps 22% over six-year period: report. 2015. Philadelphia hunger jumps 22% over six-year period: report/Common Good (unitedforimpact.org)