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At White House Conference on Hunger is a woman who's doing the work in her community

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Hunger is a big problem in the U.S. Government figures show that in 2020, more than 38 million Americans faced food insecurity. President Biden is hosting the first White House Conference on Hunger in 50 years, and earlier today, he announced his goal for ending hunger in America.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I really do know we can do this - end hunger in this country by the year 2030.

CHANG: Desiree La Marr-Murphy already works to end hunger - at least on a smaller scale. She runs a food bank in the Philadelphia area. She's attending the conference today and joins us now. Welcome.

DESIREE LA MARR-MURPHY: Thank you. So glad to be here, and so glad to be at the conference today.

CHANG: And so glad that you are on our show today. Before we talk about the actual conference, I want to know more about your work in the Philadelphia area. I know that your food bank is called Murphy's Giving Market. And you started it from your own backyard during the pandemic? I'm just curious what first prompted you to do that.

LA MARR-MURPHY: So many food banks and food pantries in the area were closing because many of them are run by senior citizens, who were most vulnerable during the COVID pandemic. And many of them are inside of buildings and churches and community centers who had to shut down. And me and my family and friends came together and decided that we can't let that happen. People needed access to food at the most vulnerable time.

So we brought all the food from my house in my backyard. We were initially going to just give it to pantries that were going to stay open. But then people started driving by my house and saw all that we had, and these are people that were on their way to supermarket. We're like, supermarkets don't have it. Can we just buy it from you?

CHANG: Wow.

LA MARR-MURPHY: And we were like, no, we can just give it out. So my family, my mom, my friends - we all came together, and we started Murphy's Giving Market, which operated in my backyard for a year and a half, serving the community, from 30 families to over 100 families.

CHANG: Oh, my God. Well, thank God for people like you. I understand that Murphy's Giving Market provides more than just food now, right? Like, what else do you help people with?

LA MARR-MURPHY: We help provide feminine hygiene products to women, clothing, shoes. But we also realize that, in order to really tackle this thing called food insecurity, we have to connect people to other resources. So we take a holistic approach to poverty. So we connect people to housing assistance, rental assistance, help people apply for SNAP benefit, immigration services. So we connect to other resources because we want to help people become more self-sustainable themselves so that they no longer need a handout through food pantry.

CHANG: Yeah. I am wondering, are you seeing more people coming to you to ask for help compared to even just last year?

LA MARR-MURPHY: Absolutely, and we're seeing - last year, when the - well, when the pandemic first started, it was non-working people because no one could work, right? But now, with people that are coming and calling during outside hours because they are working, but they still can't meet the gap. So we have - last year this time, we were serving about 110 families. But this year, we're up to 250 families...

CHANG: Wow.

LA MARR-MURPHY: ...Each week. And they call even when we're closed. They want diapers. They want baby formula because there was a baby formula shortage. And they're asking for other resources. And people are looking for more culturally relevant food because we serve a very diverse population.

CHANG: So tell me, Desiree, what specifically do you hope to walk away with after this conference?

LA MARR-MURPHY: President Biden said it best - we need to continue with the Child Tax Credit. There are too many families that were able to benefit from the Child Tax Credit the last two years. The Child Tax Credit put money in people's family's pocket every month, and they were able to fill the gap, to be able to pay their rent. We need to continue that increase of SNAP for families, make the SNAP eligibility guidelines so that more families can have access to SNAP. And not just families, but seniors and immigrants - like, make food more available.

I, as a former person that depended on these benefits, recognize that when you are hungry, you buy food first before you buy - pay your rent. There's so much more money that goes in housing and not food. But food is the first thing you buy.

CHANG: Yeah.

LA MARR-MURPHY: So if we make food accessible, then people would have money to pay their bills, to pay their rent. And I think that's pivotal to changing the economics of America.

CHANG: That is Desiree La Marr-Murphy. She is the founder and CEO of Murphy's Giving Market in the Philadelphia area. Thank you so much for your work, Desiree, and thank you for joining us.

LA MARR-MURPHY: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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