Public Information Representative
About the Public Information Representative Service Position, from Gratitude in Action, FA's Newsletter about Service
The role of Public Information Representatives (PI Rep) is to help increase awareness of FA in the public. Given the wide variety of possible PI activities, the WSI Public Information Committee has recently identified a set of primary responsibilities for PI Reps. Taken together, these primary responsibilities are a reminder that PI Representatives can engage other FA members in public information activities rather than conducting these activities alone.
A good place to start is Help for PI Representatives which summarizes the primary and secondary responsibilities of the PI Rep and lists a variety of helpful ideas to make this position more manageable and effective, including:
- Making PI-Related Announcements at Monthly Business Meetings. Use the Scripts for Monthly Business Meetings for suggested scripts to help you announce PI opportunities.
- Updating and Printing FA Trifold Brochures:
- Download the tri-fold brochure for publicizing weekly meetings and modify it for your local fellowship.
- Ask meeting members to distribute brochures in public spaces, including community bulletin boards, cafes, gyms, libraries, schools, salons, laundromats, bus stations, supermarkets, senior centers, etc. Remind members to ask permission before posting a tri-fold brochure.
- Distributing Healthcare Brochures
- At the announcement portion of the FA meeting, ask members if they have upcoming appointments with healthcare providers. Ask if they would be willing to share the FA healthcare brochure.
- Distribute FA healthcare brochures at monthly business meetings to those members who are willing to share information about FA with their healthcare providers.
- Check out GIA edition 1 from 2019 for more detailed information on reaching out to healthcare providers.
- Posting Calendar Announcements
- Announce your weekly meeting in the following public forums: community newspapers, online calendar announcement/community events websites, cable and radio stations (including their online calendar events sections)
- Please use the approved Meeting Calendar Announcement Templates
- Email the PI Committee at email@example.com for a list of your area's local newspapers, college newspapers, radio and TV stations.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a list of local, national, and international sites where you can post meeting information online at no charge.
- HIghlighting Resources for Contacting Faith Community Leaders
- Encourage members to engage in conversations with their faith community leaders. During these conversations, it may be helpful for them to share trifolds, the pamphlet Food Addiction and the FA Solution, and the Letter to the Faith Community Leader.
- You can also customize a letter asking Faith Community Leaders to post FA meeting announcements in their bulletins.
PI Representatives who wish to expand on these primary responsibilities can also focus on the following activities:
- Sponsoring Tri-Fold Racks
- Establish and manage your Meeting’s Sponsored Tri-Fold Brochure Rack in public establishments (i.e., local libraries, gyms, doctors’ offices, etc.), with permission from management.
- Meeting members must vote to sponsor a local brochure rack, and a member(s) must take responsibility for keeping it updated with new trifolds (racks are available for purchase at office supply stores).
- See the Sponsor-a-Rack page in the Public Information Section for more information
- See the Fall 2017 edition of GIA for helpful suggestions on sponsoring a rack.
- Participating in Health Fairs and Information Sessions
- Encourage members to locate Health Fairs and Information sessions geared toward the general public, health care providers, or other professionals.
- Check out the Health Fair Page in the Public Information Section
- Review the Information Session section of the FA website for information about conducting Public Information sessions, including suggestions on how to announce and coordinate these sessions, and helpful resources for related activities.
- Work with Local Service groups, Intergroups, and Chapters to coordinate participation.
- Check out edition 2 of GIA from 2019 for information on conducting public outreach through health fairs.
FA Web Resources for PI Reps
See the Public Info Section for links to a variety of useful resources, including Help for PI Representatives. PI representatives can gather support and share enthusiasm for spreading the word about FA recovery by:
- Conferring with previous PI Reps to learn from and build on their experience
- Asking members for help with PI activities during business meetings
- Consulting the resources in the Public Info tab of the FA website.
- Coordinating with others who are supporting PI activities through local service groups, intergroups, and chapters
- Participating in World Service PI Committee calls
- Participating in WSI PI committee meetings at the annual FA Business Convention.
Personal Reflections...Serving as a Public Information Representative
I was scared out of mind when I first took on the service of editing the Cleveland area trifold. I thought, “What if I mess it up and send some poor newcomer to the wrong location?” Or “Will someone get mad at me for misspelling their first name?” However, this experience taught me that I only get better by walking through my self-centered fears and not running from them!
Doing the trifold had challenges, at first, because we constantly had meeting changes, and the Microsoft Word format of the trifold was challenging for me to master. I had very little in the way of computer skills, and I found it very time consuming and overwhelming to keep the local area trifold updated constantly. But with the support of our local service group, I eventually settled in on a manageable system, making changes only once a quarter and then sending out the draft copy to local meetings for edits. We also added a line on the front of the trifold, directing people to the FA website for the most updated list of meetings. After approval from the meetings, I would send out a finalized PDF version of the local Cleveland area trifold to all of the meetings, with the name of a recommended printer. Most meetings found it helpful to order together, in bulk, which made the trifolds more affordable and uniform throughout the area.
Eventually, EAI started sending updates to me as soon as people submitted meeting information changes online on the FA website. This was very helpful, and I was able to check the edits made online with the fellowship’s feedback via a group email. I grew and learned from doing this service, and, after 5 years, I decided to let go of this service position and let someone else learn the role.
It is amazing to me to look back and see how I went from fear to freedom, just by doing a service that I was so afraid of. Looking back, I realize this was invaluable to the fellowship, and I hear stories of how newcomers came into FA because they saw that trifold!
When I think of service in FA, my typical first thought is "no." I'm just that kind of addict. But what ends up coming out of my mouth is "yes," because I know that it is the #1 way to get out of myself, and I always feel good afterward.
PI is a great way to get involved! I have been a PI rep for a meeting and have also been a part of an active Local Service Group. One activity we undertook was to post our meetings online as calendar announcements. We posted in several different websites, including Eventbrite, which shows the statistics for how many people have viewed the meeting or showed interest in coming. As a result, I've responded to people's inquiries about the meeting. It always gives me joy to see that people are seeing our meeting when they are looking online for a solution. It's a fairly easy thing to do, and many websites will let you post the meeting for years out, so it is not much work to see the seeds of recovery planted online.
My experience with PI since moving to the frontier [term previously used to describe an area far away from an established in-person FA fellowship] has been more challenging than I thought it would be. Since English is the third language in the country where I live, I had to go about looking for various places where English-language announcements are advertised specifically. I found a website where, in addition to having a free monthly calendar where I asked them to post our meeting, we also pay for our ad to be featured every month so that if anyone is looking for a job, an apartment, or other various items, they will see our ad come up. We have had many people call because they have seen either the ad or the calendar announcement.
Other places we have advertised include putting up flyers on bus stops and on bulletin boards around the city, especially in places where we hold our meetings or attend various AA meetings. We have also submitted emails to doctors in hospitals, telling them about the program. We have tried to get weblinks posted on various local websites that support mental health and have tried to give our trifolds out whenever we are asked about the program.
Doing this PI work really reminds me of the paragraph in the Big Book where the writer is disheartened because he feels like he tried so hard to help other alcoholics, and no one stayed sober. Yet his wife reminded him that they were both sober. I often feel that way. I am a results-oriented addict, and it can be disheartening that people who see our ads and call about the meeting don't come or don't stay, but the truth is I get to be grateful that I'm still here. Every month when I put up our ad, every flier I put on a bus stop that someone stops me and asks about, and every call I take from someone who has seen our ad and is interested in the program not only plants a seed but also reminds me why I need to be here. I get to talk about the program and recall that I'm no “greater” or “less than” and that I'm just another food addict, living on the frontier [term previously used to describe an area far away from an established in-person FA fellowship] and trying to stay abstinent and help someone who might be sick or suffering.
As a PI Rep for one of seven meetings currently working together to host an FA Information session, I appreciate the opportunity to work with fellows I don’t see at my regular committed meetings and to make new connections. We have been meeting monthly on the phone since March and are all very excited for our upcoming event! Working together, we have been able to send out a press release to multiple outlets. So far, one town newspaper has published it. We have created an Information Session trifold that has meeting information for the seven participating meetings, and we are creating a special “Information Session Phone List” that will be included in the newcomer packets we distribute that day. We have been going out together into our communities to post flyers and place racks—it’s so much easier when you’re not alone! We planned the Information Session for a Saturday afternoon and will begin the event with a fellowship lunch.
Discussions about doing PI Sessions during our FA fellowship luncheons inspired me to check out renting a room in my church, which hosts other 12 Step meetings. I did not know how much my recovery would be enhanced by doing the service.
Participating in the PI Session changed my behavior and thinking. Before participating in the PI Session, I hesitated to ask for help. I thought I could do everything on my own. I often hoped other fellows might offer, but I wouldn’t ask outright. Now I see that I had been trying to protect myself from being hurt. By not asking for help, I didn’t put myself in the position of being refused, which would feel like rejection.
At the outset, I got two strong suggestions. One was not to attempt to the whole project myself, as it is impossible for one person (or one meeting) to do everything needed to carry off an effective PI Session. That would end up in my being overwhelmed, likely exhausted, and full of resentments, or the PI not reaching newcomers. The second suggestion sent me to the Tasks List in the website PI Kit for a PI session. The result was I took on the position of task coordinator and several meetings were involved.
After a group discussion where all my fellows had a copy of the Task List, I soon saw my fellows’ enthusiasm and willingness to volunteer to take on tasks for the PI Session. The open conversation about tasks and the necessity of my asking for assistance brought me out of my isolation and resulted in deeper relationships with each fellow. It became clear to me that nobody was going to automatically know what task had to be done, so I needed to learn how to delegate.
Doing this service taught me that being part of a team working together to reach the still suffering food addict was more effective, and much more fun, than me going it alone. The tasks were evenly distributed and no one fellow showed signs of burnout. Finally, and most importantly, the group effort in bringing about the PI Session Event strengthened our local fellowship by bonding us closer. I am grateful for the experience.
FA Traditions – Posting Full Name or FA on Meeting Signs
The WSI Traditions Committee was asked whether FA meetings and Conventions should use our full name, "Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous", or "FA" on posted signs.
The Fifth Tradition reminds us that our primary purpose is to serve the newcomer. The Eleventh and Twelfth Traditions remind us to protect anonymity. Therefore, the TRC recommends local meetings keep it generic, “FA.” Because the meeting is for the newcomer, it is important to take into consideration that a newcomer may feel uncomfortable walking into a meeting with a sign announcing, “Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous.” Similarly, a meeting phone list is best titled with only the meeting day listed on the phone list. We do not need to identify it as a phone list for Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. For meetings one should use “FA.”
In contrast, for conventions, welcoming signs may conceivably use the full name, Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous. Generally, established FA members attend conventions, and these conventions take place away from attendees’ home communities, so there is less concern for the anonymity of newcomers. Moreover, these signs may help attract public attention, so they have PI value.
Focus on PI Service Opportunities: Sponsor-a-Rack
Sponsoring a trifold rack consists of placing a brochure rack filled with FA literature (usually trifolds) in a public establishment and resupplying the literature on a regular basis. Many current FA members first discovered FA through a trifold placed at a local library, gym, or doctor’s office.
Meetings that decide to take advantage of this service opportunity usually ask a committed member to fill the Sponsor-a-Rack service position. This member will oversee efforts to ensure that display boxes of FA information left in public places are monitored and refilled as needed.
Here’s How Your Meeting Can Undertake This Important Service…
All it takes are three easy steps:
- Get Started – Agree at your business meeting to place brochure racks in places that can be monitored frequently. Set aside funds, as necessary, for member(s) to purchase racks and cover the cost of copies. Identify members (one year of abstinence recommended) to take responsibility for keeping the racks updated with new trifolds. Ask for a volunteer to fill the Sponsor-a-Rack service position and keep track of the group’s efforts.
Suggested sites for racks include:
- Health care providers (doctors, hospitals, clinics, chiropractor, dentist, etc.)
- Community centers (gyms, local community centers, senior centers, YMCA, etc.)
- Health food stores
- 12 Step recovery meeting sites
- Hair/beauty/nail salons
- Get Racks – Obtain acrylic brochure racks from an office supply store. These are typically inexpensive and can be purchased in single or multiple units. Print enough copies of your up-to-date meeting trifolds to stock the racks.
- Get Results – Stock the racks. Work with the meeting Sponsor-a-Rack person to track the racks, using a simple spreadsheet. Spreadsheet information should include: business names, addresses, contact person/sponsor, and dates stocked. You can even use the spreadsheet to track the effectiveness of the location, if you include information such as the number of trifolds taken, frequency of restocking, etc.
Remember – it is important to ask permission from the management of any establishment before placing a rack. If you are interested in receiving a template spreadsheet for keeping track of your trifold racks, please write to PI@foodaddicts.org.
Personal Reflections…Sponsoring Racks
After placing racks in as many locations as possible around our large city, I soon discovered that the job was unmanageable. I brought this dilemma to our meeting’s group conscience. We decided to simplify. We suggested that members sponsoring a rack should only put racks in places they go to frequently. Spots in the immediate vicinity of home or work will limit the amount of travel needed and make the task far more manageable. We also encouraged people to sponsor a reasonable number of racks in order to avoid burnout.
On a personal note, I have experienced great fulfillment from this service position. There is something really rewarding about putting out a rack and finding that it needs refilling on a regular basis. At the same time, I often wonder, “With all this restocking I do, why don’t we have more newcomers turning up at our meeting?” I am reminded by other members that I am doing this service simply to get the FA message out into the community. The results are not up to me.
I also have to remember my own story. It took two years from the time I was given information about FA to the time when I gathered the courage to do anything with it. Everything happens in God’s time! I just need to do my one percent, without expectations about the results.
When my kids were young, and I was out and about doing a lot of driving, I did a variation of the “Sponsor-a-Rack” service that was great fun. I kept racks and pamphlets in the trunk of my car. While on errands or looking for a quick pick me up on a rainy day, I would find somewhere to spontaneously place a rack. It always filled my heart to know that in doing so there was one more store front that now put FA in someone's reach. But…the challenge with doing it this way was that it was very hard to maintain. I ran out of steam to check the racks with any regularity and it never occurred to me to ask for help from others in refilling the racks. If I were to engage in this service again, I would share the load—many hands make for light work.
Focus on PI Service Opportunities: Personal Outreach to Healthcare Providers
Many healthcare providers find themselves strongly suggesting—to no avail—that patients maintain a healthy weight and diet. We provide information about FA to professionals and groups (doctors, clergy, health-class teachers, health-fair organizations, health-support groups, and professional associations, to name a few) who are in a unique position to advise the suffering food addicts around them. Professionals have been recommending AA to alcoholics since before “The Doctor’s Opinion” was written in the 1930s. FA cannot be recommended to clients and patients if professionals haven't even heard of FA. Our goal is to educate professionals, so they can help their clients and patients. We contact a variety of professionals, with an emphasis on healthcare professionals, because the side effects of food addiction can be life-threatening.
Start with the professionals in your own life. These may include physicians, nurses, dentists, psychotherapist, and Employee Assistance Providers (EAPs). Experience shows that personal, one-on-one contact is most effective in connecting with professionals. The next time you visit with a healthcare provider, take along a copy of the Healthcare brochure and tell them how FA has helped you. If you have friends in these professions, talk about FA as a way to help their clients and patients. Give them the brochure and some literature to reinforce your discussion. This gives them something to refer to when talking with their clients. It also gives them something to hand to patients. (We have found that not inserting the literature in an envelope makes the information more accessible.) When medical appointments are conducted via phone or Internet, members can refer their providers to the dedicated page on the FA website for healthcare professionals.
Many people have asked how to approach their health care provider. Here are a few useful tips:
- If Health Care Providers already know your story and have seen the results, you can follow up with something like: “This is the program that helped me get the results you’ve seen.”
- If it is a newer relationship, you might share a bit of your story, with something like, “I found I couldn’t get a handle on this (weight or health problem) on my own. I’m like an alcoholic with food, and I found a Twelve Step Program that has helped me tremendously.”
- Or this: “In case you have patients dealing with (weight, diabetes, foot problems, heart problems, etc.), this has been a solution for me and for many others. Let me know if you are interested in more information.”
It is always helpful to encourage follow-up with something like, “Let me know if you have any questions.”
Personal Reflections...Personal Outreach to Healthcare Providers
Although I work in public health, I can still feel intimidated by doctors and other medical providers. One day, in a work-training setting involving medical staff of many levels, I got up the nerve during a bio-break to approach the “Endocrinology table” next to our table and introduce myself. I asked if they worked with patients with diabetes. “Definitely.” I followed with, “In my life outside of work, I am part of a program that focuses on food addiction. FA is modeled on A.A., and it’s free. In the program, I lost 63 pounds and have kept it off for almost 12 years. Is this something providers in your department would like to learn more about?” I offered a trifold (which I had remembered to bring with me) and my email address and phone number. It took several emails and a few weeks, but eventually I met with the team that runs the Friday afternoon Obesity Clinic, comprised of the endocrinologist, nurses, psychologist, nutritionist, etc. A few months later, we were invited to do a full FA panel presentation to the team of about 10-12 field nutritionists working in community clinics. It all started with, “Hi, do you work with diabetes patients?” Several months later, through these connections, we managed to get time in front of a room of about 50 primary care providers for the county. With patience and the guidance of our Higher Power, one step at a time, we get the word out.
My regular eye doctor was on maternity leave, so I made an appointment for a routine eye exam with another doctor in the practice. Since I’d never met Dr. P, I thought it would be a good idea to bring a Packet to the Healthcare Professional to him (this was before we had the Healthcare Brochure).
When I arrived at the office, there was a sign on the receptionist’s area that said, “Dr. P. is running late.”
Oh no, I thought. The poor guy is already covering for his colleague while she’s out and now he’s running late. I don’t think he’s going to want to spend time talking to me about FA!
I checked in and went to sit in the waiting room, which had several people there already. Eventually I was called to do the preliminary exams, and when those were completed I was left alone in the exam room waiting for Dr. P. A lot of reasons went through my head for not talking to him about FA. But I’d already committed to myself that I would, and I’d gone to the trouble to get the Healthcare Professional Packet from one of my meetings, and I’d remembered to bring it with me to the appointment, so I took the information out of my bag and rested it on my knee to strengthen my resolve to follow through on what I had decided to do.
When Dr. P. came into the office he was friendly but brusque. As the eye exam came to an end, I said to him, “I brought this packet for you. It’s about a twelve-step program for food addiction that has changed my life.” I asked him if he knew about AA, which he did, and I told him FA was based on AA. I said I used to binge on food uncontrollably all the time and that since coming into FA I had been sober around the food for many years.
He said, “May I keep this?” referring to the packet.
“Yes,” I said. “I brought it for you.”
“I volunteer at an eye clinic at X,” he said, naming a large local university. “There are a lot of students who might benefit from this program. I’d like to give this packet to the office manager at the clinic.” I smiled at Dr. P, we wrapped up the appointment, and he left with the Healthcare Packet in his hand. The entire conversation about FA had taken about 90 seconds.
As I walked out of the office I wanted to jump for joy. That was probably the best doctor’s visit of my life!
FA Traditions – Direct Mailing to Healthcare Providers
The Traditions Review Committee (TRC) was asked to consider if it is appropriate to use 7th Tradition funds to pay for mailing FA Healthcare Professional letters and other FA information to health care providers (therapists, doctors, physiotherapist, chiropractors, dentists, etc.).
A possible concern would be with Tradition 11, which indicates that “our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion…” The TRC does not find that a mailout to medical professionals would infringe on this tradition. The intent of the mailout is not to promote FA. Rather, it is meant to inform professionals, so that they can provide information and help their clients and patients.
To expand upon this thought, the TRC thought that 7th tradition funds may be used to provide mailouts to health care professionals because the recipients are known to have a professional interest in helping people who deal with food, diet, and weight issues in many forms which we consider to be “food addiction.” A mailout to the general public does not fit these parameters, because it would not specifically be targeting people who are interested in helping others with food addiction.
However, although the TRC believes that a targeted mailout would be in line with the Traditions, this does not necessarily mean that it would be effective. In fact, the Public Information (PI) Committee has found that mailouts by themselves are not likely to produce results, as healthcare providers receive lots of unsolicited mail that does not warrant their attention. Instead, the PI Committee recommends that members conduct the personal outreach to their healthcare providers described in this edition of GIA. If FA groups still wish to conduct targeted mailouts, they should consider ways to connect with meaningful, personal outreach and discuss plans, commitments, and expenses in their business meetings.
Distributing the FA Healthcare Brochure at FA Meetings
The PI Committee suggests that, at every monthly business meeting, the PI representative ask who will be seeing a healthcare professional this month and hand the brochure to each one of these people. This has proven to be more effective than just leaving the brochures on the literature table. The committee also suggests that PI representatives insert a few local meeting trifolds or 20 Questions cards in the brochure before distributing it.
For meetings without PI representatives, the PI Committee asks that WSI Contacts take responsibility for making the brochure available. The brochure can be ordered here or be purchased at Intergroup and Chapter meetings. The PI Committee suggests that meetings cover the cost of the brochures and provide them free to members who are reaching out to health care professionals. For more information on using the brochure, see Instructions for the Health Care Brochure.
By taking these actions, the PI representative and the WSI Contact will increase the likelihood that the FA Healthcare Brochure will reach its intended audience and get the word out about FA to more suffering food addicts.
Focus on PI Service Opportunities: Conducting Outreach at Health Fairs
Sharing our experience, strength, and hope at health fairs is one way that FA members can help reach potential newcomers, health professionals, and friends of people who may be suffering from food addiction and don’t yet know about our program. Many organizations--businesses, nonprofits, faith communities, colleges and universities, and associations--host health fairs, mostly with the express purpose of helping people live healthier lives. Some of these are open to the public, and some target specific groups such as employees, students, and conference participants. Some are free, and some charge a fee, which, for larger conferences, can be quite expensive.
When you find an opportunity for FA to participate in a health fair, please contact the Public Information Committee of your Intergroup or Chapter (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com), or contact WSI so they can support your efforts and keep track of outreach contacts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Suggestions for Health Fair Volunteers
- Be prompt and dress appropriately for the setting. You may be providing someone’s first impression of FA.
- Have two people standing behind the table. Please do not stand in front of the table or around the area passing out tri-folds in a promotional way.
- Try to make eye contact and offer tri-fold brochures to those passing by. You can say something like: “Do you know anyone who might be struggling with food issues?”
- Take your pictures with you, but don’t display them on the table. Have them available to show anyone who might be interested.
- Schedule three people per shift, if possible. Have two people at the table at all times. Scheduling three people, especially during periods when fellows usually eat (lunch and dinner time), will enable everyone to eat away from the FA table.
- Convey interest in the event and the other vendors. Scheduling the third person also makes this possible. Visiting other vendors and talking with the event’s hosts may lead to follow-up opportunities. If they show interest, FA can sponsor racks of trifolds, provide other literature including the FA book, and make panel and/or slide presentations. Organizations can also post the FA website link as a resource on their website.
- Have sign-in sheets available to follow up with people who show interest (available at https://www.foodaddicts.org/health-fairs).
Keep these Traditions in mind as you deal with the public:
Tradition Three – The only requirement for FA membership is a desire to stop eating addictively. When talking with non-FA members, communicate that FA is for anyone who is addicted to food, not just those who are overweight. Food addiction manifests itself in many ways, not just obesity.
Tradition Five – Each group has but one primary purpose: to carry its message to the food addict who still suffers. We try to convey the message of recovery in everything we do.
Tradition Ten – Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the FA name ought never be drawn into public controversy. We do not express opinions on controversial issues (politics, other food programs, specific food plans, causes of obesity, etc.). We avoid terminology that conveys affiliation with any particular religion or other organization.
Tradition Eleven – Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films. We listen with warmth and interest, and we speak from our own experience, not presenting ourselves as experts or sharing our professional identities. We are not giving advice or trying to “sell” the program.
Tradition Twelve – Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. When speaking with groups, whether FA or non-FA groups, none of us represents FA as a whole. We are only sharing our own stories and experiences.
Protocol: One person manning the booth must have two years of abstinence, while others accompanying that person may have a minimum of 90 days of abstinence.
It’s not always easy to give your time to be at these events, but it is one way many of us can give back and get the word out. Grab a friend and volunteer when you can—you will feel good afterwards.
Personal Reflections...Volunteering at Health Fairs
The first time a health fair was announced in our FA meeting my thoughts were very negative. There was simply NO WAY I was going to even think about taking a day off to go volunteer at a health fair. My funky little attitude was to let the other FA members do it.
In the Spring of 2017 life became very difficult for my son, as he started to suffer from extreme emotional, psychological, and physical abuse at the hands of a family member. I was POWERLESS. I was terrified for my son and his emotional safety. Praying for my son and sitting quietly and trusting God was definitely very powerful. However, the most AMAZING things began to happen when in addition to my prayers I began paying attention to emails from something called "The Local Service Group" and different activities that FA members were planning. One of those activities was participating in an upcoming health fair. Somehow, I was willing to participate in the health fair, and I was EXCITED!!
It was so much fun to meet so many people who stopped by the table, and to have the opportunity to talk about FA. During my first health fair, I mainly listened to the more experienced FA member, in order to learn how to interact with visitors, and represent FA. In addition, during our time together between visitors at our table, I had the opportunity to really learn about FA. My fellow drew out the organizational chart for me, and explained the structure of our FA organization. Prior to this discussion, WAI and WSI were just letters. My FA fellow was orienting me and explaining the different levels of service—specifically, service at the FA meetings and service above the level of the FA meeting. Somehow, instead of neurotically worrying about my son, I trusted that God was working something out, as I became active with the Local Service Group.
Next weekend, I will be participating in my third health fair as an FA member. This time, I will be the FA member with two years of continuous abstinence. It is by God’s Grace that my child is healing, and I am confident that God has wonderful plans for us all. Thank you God for FA!!
In February, 2019, I helped staff an FA table with two other fellows, at Cedar Valley College's annual health fair in Lancaster, Texas. Their health fair was really well organized, with tables from a wide variety of vendors lined up along a hallway, where hundreds of students, faculty, and community-members of all ages walked through. From 10:00 am until 2:00 pm, we engaged with people from a variety of life stages who had questions about our program, or who wanted to have a conversation about health in general. Many people were interested for themselves, or indicated an interest for family members. We also had a few vendors come by and invite us to participate in upcoming events that they were sponsoring. We had a variety of literature on display, and handed out trifolds with information about FA, our meeting schedules, and contact phone numbers. I particularly appreciated hearing my fellows interacting with the people who approached the table. The three of us brought our varied experience, strength, and hope to the health fair, and as I listened to my fellows I was encouraged and strengthened as well! I have not, as yet, seen any participants from the health fair attending any of the FA meetings I attend, but I do believe that participating in events where we can engage in conversations about our program, and offer resources that can be accessed if and when people are ready for them, is a valuable use of my time and a great opportunity for service.
The health fair bustled with health-services employees visiting booths from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on their lunch hour. Signed cards made them eligible to win raffle prizes by learning about health care and nutrition options at the booths. For the first hour, three of us greeted and talked to at least 40 people, including a food scientist, therapists, some very supportive individuals who knew about FA, others who took a trifold but were careful not to make eye contact, still others who knew someone who could benefit from this program, and yet others who came by to learn about FA for themselves. As the clock struck noon, we took turns going to lunch, being escorted down a long hallway to the employee break room. By 12:50 we were all back at the health fair, and by 1:00 pm, had met and talked with 75 employees. My heart felt full as we cleared away our table and packed up the posters. A couple of hours well-spent, paying it forward. I was grateful to feel the courage of my convictions and the hope that maybe one more person might find relief and recovery in FA.
FA Traditions – Issues Related to FA Service at Health Fairs
Participating in health fairs can raise several questions related to our traditions. One question that the Traditions Committee deliberated on is whether paying a fee to participate in a health fair would violate Tradition 6, which says that “An F.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the F.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”
The Traditions Review Committee (TRC) suggested that FA groups should always ascertain that the money is simply an entry fee and will not be used to promote a specific organization or cause. If so, the group would be operating in support of Tradition 6. In addition, the committee recommended that FA booths not be placed next to booths of weight loss groups whenever possible, as FA does not want to appear as a weight loss program.
A second question came up when an FA group was given the opportunity to present information about FA in front of a large group during a health fair. As part of the presentation, the organizers asked for “before and after” pictures to be projected on the screen. The TRC conferred by email and determined that this request was especially troublesome in light of Tradition 11 (relying on attraction rather than promotion, especially at the level of press, radio, and film) and Tradition 12 (protecting anonymity). Our tool of Anonymity provides helpful guidance here:
ANONYMITY: Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our program. We are not afraid to admit our own addiction, but at the public level, we protect the program by concealing our full names and faces. Humility is essential for our recovery. No individual member should ever be seen as representing FA as a whole. Within the program, we reach out to help, but we do not gossip or reveal anyone’s membership in FA except our own. Each person’s story is theirs to reveal.
We must be especially careful to protect our own anonymity, and that of others, in addition to guarding against our egos when it comes to photographs. The TRC would strongly suggest that you not give the organizers pictures to project on a screen but rather rely on the attractiveness of the FA members who speak—that they demonstrate the difference of FA as providing recovery and not simply weight loss. Instead, you could send them the FA logo as a place holder, or a photo of one of our trifolds (Are You Having Trouble Controlling the Way
Health Fair Resources on the FA Website
The Public Information Committee recently posted several new resources to support FA members who are carrying the message of recovery through health fairs, including useful forms for scheduling volunteers, confirming responsibilities, following up on information requests, and evaluating the event, all of which are accessible on the Health Fairs Page.
Gratitude in Action (GIA) is a newsletter filled with tips, tools, and encouragement for FA members doing service to reach the still suffering food addict. To read about a specific service position, click the link below.