Donating food to a food cupboard is obviously a good thing, says longtime community organizer Alison Clarke, but it doesn't do anything to address the root causes of poverty and hunger.
"People want to do things for people who are poor," Clarke says, "but they don't really understand the depth of the issues, where the change needs to happen. Transforming people is different than trying to feed people when they're hungry. You have to do both, and there's a place for everybody."
Clarke is in charge of social action for Calvary St. Andrew's Presbyterian Parish in the South Wedge. On March 5, the church will sponsor "Wedge Wage," which will include a forum and discussion on the fight for a living wage.
Speakers will include low-wage workers; Elizabeth Nicholas, an attorney with the Wage Justice Project of Empire Justice Center; and the Rev. William Wilkinson of Trinity Emmanuel Presbyterian Church.
The event is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the German House, 315 Gregory Street. No RSVP is required, and the program is not limited to residents of the South Wedge.
The event has several co-sponsors, including Metro Justice, South Wedge Mission, Rochester Catholic Worker, and 1199 SEIU United Health Workers East. Clarke says these groups can build on each other's efforts — such as Metro Justice's "Fight for $15" campaign for fast-food workers — to make a dent in systemic poverty in Rochester.
"This is the best organizing I've seen in a long time," she says. "Building strong communities is an answer to a lot of problems."
"People are learning more about systemic change," Clarke says. "They're understanding systemic change more."