Part lobbyist, part technical assistant, Christina Wong helps food-bank clients be engaged citizens.
What do you do? At Northwest Harvest, I provide information, training and technical assistance to our statewide network of food banks and meal programs to help them advocate for a stronger public-safety net for families in need. I am also a lobbyist, educating state and federal lawmakers about food and nutrition programs. I love telling food-bank participants that I am not just a lobbyist — I am their lobbyist.
How did you get started in that field? I worked for a disability-rights organization in Utah, investigating individual claims of abuse and neglect. It was fulfilling work, but I wanted to find solutions that prevent harm rather than react to it. One solution is a government that works for its citizens, improving public services that support people in need, so my boss took me under her wing, letting me assist with our legislative agenda.
What’s a typical day like? There is no such thing as a typical day. One day, I am in Olympia meeting with legislators or helping a food-bank manager prepare testimony for a public hearing. Another day, I am touring a summer meal program for kids with a Congressional member. On another day, I’m listening to clients tell their stories of resilience to help lawmakers understand the impact of their decisions.
What’s the best part of the work? Helping our clients be engaged citizens. A client asked me if he could write about the Sonics when I asked him to write to Congress to prevent cuts to food stamps. I love what he wrote: “I’m a disabled, unemployed, homeless vet. Food stamps help me eat. Please bring back the Sonics.” I delivered that and over 100 messages opposing the cuts to his Congressional member.
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What surprises people about what you do? People understandably value Northwest Harvest’s charitable work, providing nutritious food to hungry people statewide in a manner that respects their dignity, so I think they are surprised to hear about my role in the organization. Families need sufficient income to meet their basic needs, so public-policy advocacy is an equally important strategy: charity provides immediate relief, while we find long-term solutions to hunger and poverty.