Artsfest 2021: Health & Food Insecurity

Rachel’s Table is a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts whose mission is to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste within the community. Artsfest is a project led by the Rachel’s Table Teen Board who this year sponsored a virtual art show to raise awareness about hunger, food insecurity, and health. Artsfest 2021 summoned artwork particularly aimed at how health is impacted by hunger. Submissions (due by March 10) included paintings and sculpture, graphic art and photography, poetry and song, and dance and storytelling. Prizes were awarded based on creativity, thoughtfulness, and adherence to the theme. The online exhibition launched on March 21 and featured three Suffield Academy students enrolled in Jenny Graham’s Introduction to Visual Communication Design: Norman Slate ’21, Rhys Babcock ’23, and Hayden Rowley ’24 (honorable mention). 

“This was an extremely eye-opening and powerful experience for our kids who may have never before encountered issues regarding food insecurity and hunger,” says Visual Arts Co-Chair Jenny Graham. “To prepare them for this project I first asked students to conduct research before holding multiple class discussions centered on what food insecurity and hunger mean in today’s world. I initiated this Art for a Cause theme last year with projects related to the topic of mental illness, which many of our students then submitted to the Brain Dance Competition hosted by the Hartford Hospital Institute for Living. The impact these assignments have had is amazing as you can see in each accompanying artist statement. Ultimately, our students learned to recognize how art can empower a voice to educate and share meaningful messages with the world.”

Hayden Rowley earned honorable mention for his poster depicting a little girl living below the poverty line unable to reach a healthy diet. He commented, “This assignment really helped me to understand a topic with which I wasn't very familiar. I now understand how much more expensive healthy and organic food is compared to unhealthy and processed food. My biggest takeaway was how many people this affects here in the United States. I have come to the realization that people think of us as a rich and problem-free country but really there are many families struggling to put food on their tables.”

You may view Norman, Rhys, and Hayden’s work and artist statements here.