June 10, 2019

This post was originally published on May 22 as a part of the Mission Possible blog series from Nonprofit VOTE and Independent Sector. The series explores “the different ways a variety of nonprofits are embedding voter engagement into their work.”

Since 1970, the Food Research & Action Center has spearheaded efforts to end poverty-related hunger in the United States by ensuring all eligible people have access to federal nutrition programs – programs that reduce hunger and poverty and that improve nutrition, health, development, learning, and overall ability to thrive. FRAC provides coordination, training, technical assistance, and support on nutrition and anti-poverty issues to a nationwide network of advocates, service providers, food banks, program administrators and participants, and policymakers; conducts research to document the extent of hunger, its impact, and effective solutions; and seeks stronger federal, state, and local public policies that will reduce hunger and undernutrition.

FRAC sees nonpartisan voter engagement as crucial to fighting for a healthier, hunger-free nation. Alex Ashbrook, FRAC’s Director of Special Projects and Initiatives, explains why participating in nonpartisan voter engagement is on FRAC’s plate and why working with Nonprofit VOTE was a must.

Q: While everyone agrees that voting and voter engagement is important, how did you tie that to your organization’s core mission? 

FRAC works to end poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. In a country as wealthy as ours, we could eradicate hunger if we galvanized the political will to do so.

FRAC believes that building the political will to solve hunger requires identifying poverty and hunger as key issues, and electing leaders who are dedicated to creating and implementing transformative policies needed to solve hunger.  Imagine what our country could achieve if we invested in leaders — from Capitol Hill to every state house to every school board — who are committed to eradicating hunger!

FRAC is also aware that too many people — especially people of color and low-income people struggling to afford basic needs, such as food — feel disconnected from the political process. By engaging in activities, like voting, those who have experienced hunger, poverty, and other related forms of oppression (e.g., racism) can use their civic power to lift up issues and candidates with solutions that can help to eliminate hunger.

Q: Tell us about the decision to create a co-branded voter engagement toolkit and webinar series — why did that seem like a good, first step? 

Nonprofit VOTE is a respected expert in the voter engagement sector. For FRAC, it made sense to leverage that expertise by partnering with Nonprofit VOTE on creating voter engagement materials relevant for anti-hunger stakeholders.

FRAC’s network of key partners are eager to engage in voter registration efforts from diverse starting points: some organizations seek guidance on rules for registering voters at public assistance agencies, while others need help expanding their bandwidth to accommodate voter engagement efforts. The resources created by FRAC with Nonprofit VOTE serve as critical roadmaps for those in the anti-hunger space looking to contribute to voting and voter engagement work.

Q: What advice do you have for other nonprofits who that are eager to do nonpartisan voter engagement but for whatever reason haven’t started yet? 

Get involved! Whether your organization has a day to devote to these efforts or full-time staff dedicated to such work, nonprofits can engage in several 501(c)(3)-permissible election-related activities, including voter engagement.

Diving right into this work is important because addressing racial, economic, and other inequities is linked to improving voter engagement. Ensuring that the voices of communities impacted by hunger, poverty, and other adverse conditions are heard is essential to mitigating the impact of past (e.g., Jim Crow laws) and recent (e.g., restrictive voting laws) efforts to harm the most vulnerable. A cornerstone of engagement in — and integration into — a democracy is exercising the power of voting.

Check out the full Mission Possible blog series archive here.