Whitney is just one of the dozens of people struggling with hunger featured in "This Is Hunger." Photo from thisishunger.org.
Whitney is just one of the dozens of people struggling with hunger featured in “This Is Hunger.” Photo from thisishunger.org.

A staggering 42.2 million Americans struggle with hunger daily. That’s more than the entire population of Canada. But every one of those 42.2 million people has a face and a story.

Telling those stories — through words and photographs — in order to inspire action is the idea behind “This Is Hunger,” an interactive exhibit that will travel the country for the next several month.

For the last two weeks, “This Is Hunger,” sponsored by the nonprofit MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, has called the Santa Monica College parking lot at 14th St. and Pico Blvd. home. It will move to the West Valley on Thursday before heading to Arizona for its next stop. The event is co-sponsored by SMC’s Public Policy Institute.

The exhibit features photographs of hundreds of people across the country taken by local photographer and political consultant Barbara Grover. Visitors come face-to-face with the people struggling with hunger in the U.S., from children to seniors and everyone in between.

During the experience, visitors also hear the stories of those people. There is John, from Michigan, whose parents skip meals to make sure he can eat.

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“It makes me feel sad that my parents sometimes feed us kids and not themselves,” John said in his statement for the project. His mom is out of work and his father is disabled.

“I think we are going to have a good life again. When that happens, I’m gonna help hungry people out, like invite them to dinner and give them some food to take home,” he said.

There is Whitney, from Mississippi, a senior who has to choose between feeding herself and getting the health care she needs.

“I thought that after working hard all my life, I’d be living the good life now,” Whitney said in her statement. “I grew up at a time when only white children were allowed to ride the bus to school. We ate what we could find wild, like possums or ‘coons, or what the white lady Miss Paine snuck us. I had more food as a poor child living on a plantation than I do now.”

But “This Is Hunger” is about more than just looking the problem of hunger in the face. As part of the experience, visitors are challenged to plan a meal on about $1.50, roughly the amount of money people dependent on programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) have per meal.

“This Is Hunger” is also about  taking action, whether it’s through signing a petition to make sure our elected officials keep programs like SNAP or simply donating to advocacy groups like MAZON.

To find out more or to reserve (free) tickets to experience “This Is Hunger” before the exhibit moves on, visit thisishunger.org