game changer

Hyperlocal focus on the hungry leads local woman to global goal

By / Photography By Grant Beachy | May 16, 2018
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Angela Rupchock-Schafer’s advocacy for hungry and food-insecure people in Michiana often takes her to Washington, DC. Here she visits 2nd District U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski’s office, but she is also a familiar face to other Indiana legislators on Capitol Hill, in Indianapolis and here in Michiana. Photo provided by Bread for the World

A lot of people set goals. It’s pretty common.

Angela Rupchock-Schafer is like a lot of people that way: She has goals.

Here’s one: Collect all the authentic Hungarian recipes that were part of her upbringing.

Lots of people collect family recipes. Nothing too out of the ordinary there.

Here’s another one: End world hunger by 2030.

Well, that’s not a big—

*Record scraaatch*

Sure, plenty of people would like to end hunger, but Rupchock-Schafer wants to put a deadline on it. She shares this goal with many other people and organizations (including the United Nations). Her knowledge of these people and organizations is encyclopedic.

She’s traveled all over the world to learn firsthand how hunger and food insecurity look in different countries (there’s not a standard template, she says).

She spends a great deal of time in Washington, DC, to lobby for legislation that assists people who are food insecure (people who do not have reliable access to nutritious food they can afford).

But a good portion of her time is spent at home in Michiana, helping the hungry and the impoverished in local communities.

“It’s endlessly rewarding,” she says. “It’s what I’m meant to do.”

But let’s back up. Rupchock-Schafer, 36, grew up here, in that space somewhere in the middle of LaPaz, Bremen and Plymouth, IN. Definitely rural. Her family lived on a 20-acre farm with a massive garden, chickens, pigeons, occasional geese and ducks, and a peacock.

After graduating from LaVille High School in 1999, she attended Saint Mary’s College, where she earned a degree in philosophy. It’s safe to say she thinks a lot.

And it was thinking, in a way, that got her where she is now. While studying in France, she took a cooking class in Burgundy, with a meticulous and exacting instructor. The chef was intense about the importance of understanding not just what the ingredients in a dish are, but also where they come from and how they are produced. And that was Rupchock-Schafer’s introduction to thinking deeply about food.

That led to another line of intellectual inquiry. “I was just thinking, ‘What does my love of food have to do with people who are hungry?’”

Flash forward to 2008, and Rupchock-Schafer—then a marketing and communications director for Church World Service in Elkhart, a multidenominational nonprofit that focuses on poverty relief—attended the inaugural Hunger Justice Leader Training in Washington, DC. This program is administered by another nonprofit, Bread for the World, which equips people to advocate for hunger relief through letters, emails, personal meetings with legislators, lobbying— in short, getting involved on every possible level with policy makers in government. It is also an ecumenical organization that speaks of the moral, Christian duty to help those who are hungry.

“The Bible talks endlessly about fighting hunger,” Rupchock-Schafer says. She felt so strongly about that mission, she ended up on Bread for the World’s board, a position she still holds.

A big way she helps is through advocacy: making sure people in need are heard.

It’s not that they’re voiceless. They have voices. But, she says, those voices aren’t always heard, or they might not always speak up. Poverty shaming, she says, is a powerful force, and once people internalize that shame, it’s hard for them to speak up. But with someone’s help, she says, many who find the courage to speak up become some of the strongest advocates for food-insecure people.

Angela Rupchock-Schafer is a familiar face at the Marshall County Neighborhood Center in Plymouth, IN, which is the nerve center for a lot of her work advocating for hunger relief

“My mission is helping them express that: get their butts to [their representatives’] offices,” she says, adding that people in government “need to listen to these people.”

Rupchock-Schafer, who lives in Marshall County with her husband and two sons, has worked to show lawmakers what food challenges people face in Michiana. As director of development and communications for the Marshall County Community Foundation, she is quick to point out that hyperlocal issues—not just global—are important to bring to legislators’ attention.

She chairs the Marshall County Food Council, which connects food producers and aid organizations around the county to promote a sustainable local food system, reducing waste and helping the needy. The Food Council formed a little over a year ago, with support of the Community Foundation and the Marshall County Purdue Extension.

The importance of these types of hyperlocal organizations lies in defining the challenges of the Michiana area. Food solutions that work in an urban area don’t always translate to rural communities. One example Rupchock-Schafer gives is summer school lunch programs. When eligible students live where there is no public transit or simply far away, how do you get them to the food?

If Food Council members see an organization that has a solution, they’re happy to partner with that organization to expand its reach, she says.

What it comes down to for Rupchock- Schafer, though, is for people to do what they can. She is motivated by her upbringing and her beliefs (in keeping with her call to service and her political advocacy, she has also earned a Master of Public Affairs degree from Indiana University and is working toward a Master of Divinity at Chicago Theological Seminary).

“One part of my faith that informs my hunger advocacy is the act of sharing bread, making sure there is bread (for everyone), literally and figuratively,” she says. “Feeding hungry people is part of being Christian.”

For others, the motivations can be different. Some people can work big, some can work small. But as long as the work is being done in the most effective way possible, ending hunger doesn’t seem like such a lofty goal at all.


Help Angela reach her goal!

Fighting hunger doesn’t have to be a full-time job for you to make a difference. Angela Rupchock-Schafer offers the following ways you can help others in need (though there are many more).

Food drives: Local food-collection efforts, whether through a food pantry or charitable programs like Blessings in a Backpack or the U.S. Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger program, are ways to donate needed food and personal care items.

Digitally: The World Food Programme has a smartphone app called Share the Meal, which allows smartphone users to donate with a tap. The organization begins with a suggested donation of 50 cents, which is used to feed hungry children, but you can customize donation amounts and frequency.

Advocacy: Bread for the World often posts calls to action and prompts to contact legislators on its Twitter feed, Rupchock-Schafer says, particularly when action is needed. Simply follow @bread4theworld. Also consider joining your local food council, if there is one. Northern Indiana counties, as well as Berrien County in Michigan, are served by local food councils.

Donate: Make a cash donation to a food charity. “When you donate cash, you are donating to [an organization] with professionals who are familiar with the needs of that community,” Rupchock-Schafer says. As a result, resources are directed where they are most needed.

Fresh produce: Food pantries always need fresh produce, Rupchock-Schafer says, so consider bringing in that garden surplus.

Give yourself: Your time can be even more valuable than money. A lot of food-insecure people don’t know how to cook nutritionally complete meals with fresh ingredients. Contact a local food pantry, extension office or ministry to see if you can volunteer to teach a class on cooking or canning.

Article from Edible Michiana at http://ediblemichiana.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/hyperlocal-focus-on-the-hungry
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