Hunger Free Oklahoma Turns 5!
Reflection on Hunger Free Oklahoma’s First 5 Years
by Chris Bernard, Executive Director
November 17, 2021
In reflecting on HFO’s five years of work and thinking of how to best sum it up for the newsletter, I struggled. Listing accomplishments and impacts is a perfectly reasonable approach, after all, we have many accomplishments to be proud of – as an organization and as a member of the anti-hunger community in Oklahoma that collectively brought hundreds of millions of dollars back to our state to serve our neighbors struggling with food insecurity. But if you want to see those numbers you can look at our annual impact reports.
I could talk about our growth which, again, is something concrete I can point to and show everyone that we started with three staff and we will soon have 36, but staff growth means very little on its own.
The bigger questions are: If we disappeared today, what HFO would want to be remembered for? What would we want as our legacy?
I am still not sure I have a final answer, but here are the things that, as we have grown, we use as guideposts in our work with partners, clients, and anyone with whom we interact. I hope these are the things that come to mind when you, our partners, former staff, funders, and others, hear our name.
- Collaborative: Everything we do internally and externally relies on collaboration. While collaborations happen at different scales and in different forms, they are the core, the foundation, the keystone of our work.
- Intentional: We are intentional in how we approach our work, our strategies, our relationships, our organizational change, our culture, and everything we do. Intentionality is what allows us to be impactful.
- Inclusive: It takes all of us to solve an issue as big as hunger. We strive to bring together diverse voices and communities to drive solutions. We do so mindful that historically policies and systems have been designed to marginalize, disenfranchise, and even destroy communities of color and indigenous communities. We can only be successful if we do what we can in our part of the world to dismantle any such systems and policies and empower communities to bring about positive systemic change.
- Relentless: We are problem solvers. We will find a way over, under, around, or through any barrier.
- Committed to Learning: In every situation we must acknowledge we do not have all the answers, we must be open to new ideas, we must be open to new perspectives, and most importantly, we must acknowledge that communities have the expertise to solve their problems.
- Bold: We are not afraid to take on new projects and prove their value or learn from their failure.
- People-Centered: Ultimately our work is about serving people. We cannot be successful unless everything we do is focused on meeting people where they are, acknowledging that they are a whole person, and building systems with people at the center. We must acknowledge the same about our team and support them as whole people.
- Transparent: We do not hide our agenda, we are open about our work, our goals, our challenges, our successes, and our failures.
- Continuous Improvement: We are always looking for opportunities to improve our work, ourselves, our knowledge, and our partnerships.
At Hunger Free Oklahoma, our mission is to end hunger in Oklahoma and we measure impact through rates of food insecurity, through federal dollars brought to back to our state, through participation rates in programs, and through new access points to resources. But we cannot be impactful if we are not practicing the ideals I have listed. If we can’t be open we will not be able to admit we do not have the solution and someone else does. If we are not relentless, we will miss opportunities for transformational change. If we are not transparent we will not have the trust we need to build strong partnerships. If we are not people-centered, we will lose track of what drives our work and we will fail as teammates and community members.
I could not be prouder of what the anti-hunger community and HFO have accomplished over the last five years. I could not be prouder of the team HFO has built, the growth in the depth and reach of our work, and the personal and professional growth of our team members. I don’t think any of it would have been possible if we did not strive to live up to these ideals.
We are proud of what we have done in five years, hopeful for what we can accomplish in the next five, and grateful for the opportunity to work with our partners towards the mission to end hunger in Oklahoma!