Art contest aims to help fight food insecurity

  • Food Bank of Western Massachusetts staffer Catie Gralenski loads a case of Campbell’s Spaghettios onto a cart in the warehouse of the food bank in Hatfield on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/21/2021 10:31:41 AM

Artists, here’s your chance to help fight hunger.

Rachel’s Table, a Springfield project in which volunteers collect food for organizations that work to alleviate hunger in the Valley, is asking artists to submit work for a competition that’s designed to showcase the problem of food insecurity and its connection to overall health.

What’s known as ArtsFest 2021 will be online this year and is open to artists of all ages, divided into three categories: age 13 and under, ages 14-18, and age 19 and up. Submitted work can be in a wide variety of forms: paintings, graphic art, poetry, song, small sculpture, storytelling, dance, photography, or CANstruction (the last is structures made from full cans of food).

Most importantly, however, artists are encouraged to use their work to express their understanding of the issue of food insecurity in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, says Rebecca MitraniMarmor, the director of Rachel’s Table Teen Board, a panel that helps young people learn about local hunger and poverty issues.

“ArtsFest 2021 is an excellent opportunity for budding artists to showcase their work and use it to bring awareness of how hunger may affect overall health,” Marmour said in a statement. Through the contest, she added, “we also hope to create a dialogue among our local artists and greater community about food insecurity and compel them to take action against it.”

Artwork submissions — a maximum of one per person — are due March 10 and can be made online. Applicants should also email Ms. MitraniMarmor at rebeccam@jewishwesternmass.org to register. Additional information is available at sites.google.com/view/rachelstableteenboard-artsfest/home.

A judging panel, composed of artists and community leaders from the region, will pick one winner from each of the three age categories. A virtual ceremony will be held March 21 to announce the winners and congratulate the participants; winners will receive up to $75 in gift cards.

Rachel’s Table is a dual program run by the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, located in Springfield, and 22News/WWLP, also in Springfield. Every week since the early 1990s, volunteers and staff with the program have collected food from area supermarkets, restaurants, caterers and other producers to distribute to over 40 Valley agencies that fight hunger.

This year, the Rachel’s Table Teen Board is also partnering with nursing students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to create educational resources for teens interested in fighting food insecurity in their community.

According to the board, the curriculum being developed “can support art teachers in their classes to facilitate a unit on health and food insecurity, raising awareness and inspiring youth to express their opinions creatively as well as guiding them in steps to make a difference.”

More information on the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts is available at jewishwesternmass.org.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.


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