End Childhood Hunger in Yavapai County Arizona


End Child Hunger in Yavapai County, Arizona

One in three children in Yavapai County, northern Arizona, doesn’t know where his/her next meal will come from, skips meals, or gets up from the table still hungry. While some students may get free or reduced price meals at school they lack regular meals at home. And, that’s not counting the pre-school children. In all, that translates to 15,000 hungry little bellies.

This brief documentary (12 minutes) focuses primarily on those most deeply affected: the children. The goal in making this film was to let the young people themselves drive the video as much as possible. At times children interviewed their parents and teachers, often asking very insightful questions. Children speak about how it feels to be hungry. They speak about how it feels to watch their parents sacrifice and how it feels to go to a food bank for food. In the documentary children engage in learning about healthy food choices, healthy life styles, and ways to help other children who face hunger. Although there are some interviews with the “experts,” such as a pediatric nurse, a principal, teachers, and food bank directors, the real experts are the children themselves. The narrator of the documentary is a student devoted to alleviating child hunger.

Parts of rural Northern Arizona rank with Mississippi, and now New Mexico, two states with the dubious distinction of being most filled with people facing withering poverty. Yavapai County, approximately the size of the state of Massachusetts, recently had a poverty rate of more than 20%. That means many children live in homes where they can’t count on food. But its not only the problem of poor families. Many families, particularly the working poor, may live just above the poverty line but struggle to live paycheck to paycheck, and struggle to put food on the table.

There is no Arizona state agency to alleviate hunger. So, local communities have stepped in to support their neighbors. But with the best intentions these band-aid stopgaps are still not enough. Local food banks from small corner operations to the large Yavapai Food Bank report more and more people coming in for food. They struggle to meet the growing demand. The Yavapai Food Council has successfully launched the Neighborhood Food Program, where neighbors supply bags of canned goods and nutritious package goods, in two areas—the Sedona area and Prescott. The collections from neighbors go to local food banks. Kids Against Hunger is donating half of its food to local programs for children.

Getting nutritious food to children may be a complex web of government and community groups. But the simple truth is that children are getting more and more involved and have more and more of a say in helping each other. Children are growing home and school gardens and are active in their communities to help alleviate hunger.

The target audience is the general public. Many people have no idea that their neighbors, including their neighbors’ children are hungry. If they are aware of the problem they don’t know how they can help. The goal is to raise awareness and funds and encourage Community participation.

Hunger in the Verde Valley: The Silent Disease

Face of Rural Hunger
This man, like other people in the Verde Valley uses a local Food Bank
because food is scarce.

The Verde Valley, population 60,000, once northern Arizona’s breadbasket of agriculture is struggling with rural hunger.  One in four adults, or approximately 15,000 people don’t know where their next meal will come from. Even worse, one in three children are hungry and malnourished.  That’s 20,000 hungry children.

These numbers are increasing as close to half of the middle class residents are sliding into poverty, due to job loss, low wages, home foreclosures, and bankruptcies.

The working poor, often juggling several low paying jobs, find they need to turn to emergency food resources because they can’t make it.

The people living in the Verde Valley are proud, independent, and hard working, when they can get work.  They are unwilling, for the most part, to reveal their inability to put food on the table.

Hunger here is a Silent Disease.

Go to www.YavapaiFoodCouncil.org to learn more or donate.

Indian Camp








Bob Anderson is a Penobscot Indian of midcoast Maine.
He comes from a long line of people who have used
their entrepenurial acumen to survive during tough
economic times.  Anderson grew up on the Old Town
Indian reservation where he learned how to gather
materials for baskets and make baskets along with
the rest of the community. Eventually he collected and
sold baskets, as his parents and grandparents had.

Although they had to become salesmen to survive, his
family boasted activists–his aunt was responsible for
obtaining voting rights for Penobscots in Maine.

I met Bob when he was 82 and was just recovering
from a stroke.  He was humorous, direct, and practical
when I interviewed him for this brief video which
explores stereotypes about Native Americans.

Baskets from pamela y. taylor on Vimeo.

I put together this very short story in 4 intense days
at the Maine Media Workshops under the expert
instruction of Bruce Strong.

Miss Mary In Her Own Words

Miss Mary Carter
Mary Carter

On August 8, 2011 Mary Carter of Hannibal Missouri turned 108 years old.

      1. Miss Mary's story


Two days before her birthday she was interviewed by high school student Mia Buckner, Rev. Minnie Smith of Willow Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Faye Dant, executive Director of the Hannibal African American Life and History Project.

The sound man was student A’Shyrune Deal Linwood.

Miss Carter spoke about her personal life and Hannibal’s racial heritage.
The interview is part of the Hannibal Oral History Project, under the auspices of the Hannibal Community Partnership for Reconciliation (CPR).

Hannibal Oral History Project

Students interview elders about racism in America’s Hometown…

Hannibal Oral History Project

I was asked by the Hannibal Community Partnership for Reconciliation (CPR) to teach middle school students how to interview their elders about racism in Hannibal, Missouri.  They had a team of 18 racially diverse students interview both Caucasians and African-Americans about growing up in “America’s Hometown, birthplace of Mark Twain.

A grant was provided by the Disciples of Christ Church,  Rev. Minnie Smith opened up the Willow Street Church to have the workshops and interviews, and community members gave donations.

On this project I was an educator as well as a multi-media director; I  was the program facilitator as well as the producer for the documentary.

I drove three days from Arizona to Missouri to teach the students about interview techniques, audio equipment and editing software.  I brought out a portable studio to make portrait images of the participants.  Most importantly, I worked closely with the CPR project task force to do team building and create dialog in the community.

The greatest challenge of making this documentary was creating a meaningful narrative from more than 600 minutes of recorded interviews from 10 interviewees and 18 students.

The solution was to work closely with transcripts to build a compelling narrative, which was divided into stating the problem of racism, showing how the students were able to ask tough questions, and finally the students describing what they learned and their visions for change.

The result is a  20 minute documentary that combines personal stories, vintage photographs, portraits, and images of the participants at work.  More importantly the youth are enthusiastic about the project and what they have learned not just technically but about their peers and elders.

The hope is that this documentary will continue to raise awareness in the community between ages and races.

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DMZ Phoenix

JC Shaba
JC Shaba

Time to Serve Those Who Served

The Justa Center  in Phoenix Arizona helps homeless senior citizens get vital documents, a source of income—whether it is employment, social security, etc., and a safe place to live. About a year ago they asked me to do a video about homeless senior veterans. The result was this multimedia documentary which premiered at the fundraiser Bets for Vets November 2011.

There were several challenges to this documentary. The obvious one was tracking down people who live at no fixed place, with no phone or other means of contact.  Another challenge was documenting their environment, a dangerous area known as “the zone,” the combat zone. Another formidable challenge was getting people who would permit photographs and interviews.  Most people are not proud of this time in their life when they are reduced to living on the streets.

Fortunately I was often able to arrange meetings at the Justa Center. Several former combat vets gave me tours of “the zone.” They watched my back as I shot pictures. As for getting permissions, people were so grateful that the Justa Center helped them get back on their feet, that they agreed readily to portraits and interviews. Not only that, many people opened up about their lives in ways that humbled me.

Post production also presented challenges.  As always, I was looking for good, legal music. Songwriter Chris Lux  gave me permission to record him singing his original song, “Cadillac Street.”

The most important challenge was time, or lack of it. So many veterans were incredibly forthright as they described their military service, their struggles upon coming home, and their reasons for finding themselves homeless, including ptsd, hospitalizations, addictions, and the recession. It was painful to cut out many moving stories in the interest of keeping a shorter piece.

My goal is to edit short audio portraits where more of these courageous veterans can come forward with their stories.


“Cadillac Street” written and performed by Chris Lux

Photos: Laird Brown , Pam Taylor

Video: Walt Carr, US Navy Reserve; Pam Taylor

Malcolm Burns, US Marine Corps, Vietnam
John McNamee, US Navy, Iraq
Eduard Uzumeckis, PhD, US Army, Vietnam

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Social Change

Nicaraguan Girl
Nicaraguan Girl
Social Change through Multimedia Documentaries.

Multicultural diversity has formed me. From childhood within a United Nations community in New York City, to covering civil unrest in Central America and living and working in Thailand and Peru, I find it natural to relate to people of many cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, and beliefs.

Although I began with “hard news” photojournalism, my strength today focuses on in-depth features.

I take the time to research a social issue, whether it is Americans struggling with racism or rural poverty, Peruvians or Burmese surviving civil strife, or people worldwide living their beliefs with integrity in a changing world.

Rather than do a quick in-out interview and photos, I take time to get to know the people I’m interviewing, photographing, or filming–time to establish trust and to really hear their stories– time to sensitively portray how they  overcome adversity.

Time to put a person’s face to mind-numbing statistics.

I seek out people who are traditionally marginalized, “voiceless;” often people find a voice as they tell their story.  This could be homeless senior citizens, “at-risk” teenagers, a Peruvian weaver who could only “tell” the story of his people at war through his tapestries, or Afro-American elders who know the effects of subtle racism.

Most people are grateful whenever someone not only listens to their inner truth but also portrays their inherent dignity.

Although I work with visual stories and audio stories, I believe multimedia documentaries are the most powerful means of presenting a narrative.  Integrating visual images, animation, video footage, interviews, and music surpasses linear text.

Recently I trained a group of racially mixed young teenagers how to interview each other and their elders about a difficult social issue: racism.  Students, who were struggling academically, benefitted from this non-linear way of learning and relating to others.

Multimedia documentaries can educate, move, and inspire us in ways traditional text cannot.

I create compelling authentic narratives that give voice to the “voiceless,” move viewers, and inspire social change.