Elizabeth Deak (left) talks about her work with “Hunger Through My Lens,” a project sponsored by Hunger Free Colorado.
“Hunger Through My Lens” has a dual mission: to empower people who are living in poverty and to promote awareness about hunger issues. Sponsored by the non-profit group Hunger Free Colorado, the program gives digital cameras to food stamp recipients and asks them to chronicle what it’s like to be hungry in America.
So far, 15 women — who come from all walks of life — have participated in the pilot program. Over the months, they’ve formed a “sisterhood” of sorts, supporting and encouraging one another. One woman is a former paralegal who suffers from autism. One is a family practice physician. A third woman is HIV-positive and has struggled with chronic homelessness. A fourth just got off government assistance and is now an executive director of a local non-profit organization.
Their photos are as diverse as the women themselves. At first glance, many of the photos don’t necessarily appear to depict hunger; one shows two driver’s licenses, another a bent fork. But the stories behind the photos tell about the complications and suffering that poverty brings. The work has been on display in Denver libraries, churches, coffee houses and even the Colorado Capitol. At each exhibit opening, the women come to talk about their personal stories.
“This issue is hard to talk about. There’s so much stigma attached to hunger in America,” said Kathy Underhill, director of Hunger Free Colorado. Underhill says she has seen a real blossoming among the women and is so proud of them for speaking out, because their photos and stories help break down negative stereotypes.
“Everyone has this archetype of who’s hungry in America and it’s usually the gentleman on the side of the street with the cardboard sign,” Underhill said. “And the truth is, you’re most likely to live in a hungry household in Colorado if you’re between the ages of 0 and 5. You’re most likely to be hungry if you’re an older adult or a single woman. So it’s incredibly important for folks to understand that hunger can impact anybody.”