EJI is launching new programs aimed at reducing poverty in America. The pandemic and inflation have resulted in growing income inequality and stress for people living in poverty in the U.S. Our Anti-Poverty Initiative hopes to provide relief and aid through new direct service efforts in Alabama. Our first project is focusing on food insecurity and hunger relief.
“We’re partnering with anti-hunger organizations, local community groups, faith and local ministries, food banks, and others across the state to help meet the growing need for relief to people facing hunger,” said EJI director Bryan Stevenson. “Alabama has one of the highest rates of hunger and food insecurity in the country. These problems will only be aggravated with inflation and increased costs for groceries and basic food items.”
Dozens of organizations across the state have been active in distributing food to community members in need for several years. We are partnering with many of these groups to strengthen their capacity to provide food and assistance to needy families. Greater Birmingham Ministries, West Alabama Food Bank, Food Bank of East Alabama, Edmundite Missions, and Helping Hands Food Ministry are some of the many organizations we have identified as new partners in supporting hunger relief.
We are also creating a program that will provide direct services to hundreds of families in Alabama who are food insecure and need supplemental assistance to feed family members and others who are at risk. There is a special emphasis on reaching people in need in the rural parts of the state, where there are often fewer services and programs available but even higher rates of poverty and hunger.
For over 30 years, we have provided legal services to some of the poorest people in the country facing loss of life or liberty in the criminal legal system. We have come to recognize how hunger and food insecurity undermine the ability of so many to avoid a multitude of challenges that threaten public health and safety.
“We are one of the richest nations in the world with the resources to do better,” said Mr. Stevenson. “I’m convinced that the opposite of poverty isn’t wealth, the opposite of poverty is justice. For us, anti-hunger work is justice work and we are excited to add this program to our work at EJI.”
We will continue our work challenging wrongful convictions, unfair sentences, over-incarceration, and unconstitutional conditions of confinement in Alabama’s prisons. Legal representation of people sentenced to death remains a primary focus, as well as the racial justice work that includes reports, public education, and the popular Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Other components of our Anti-Poverty Initiative will include helping people manage unjust fees and fines for misdemeanors and traffic offenses and a major new project focused on free health care. We hosted a health convening in April to begin planning and development of our health care initiative and expect to make health care services available to eligible recipients in the next few months.