Political will is key to ending hunger in America

John F. Kennedy once said that, “The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation.”

Although we often look to distant lands when we think of hunger, in reality this is a war we are still fighting in our own backyard.

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In an election year, it’s important to note that recent polls show that Democrats, Independents, and Republicans across the nation believe that hunger is a serious problem in our country, and that the government needs to do more to address it.

And here’s why:

We recently heard the story of a mother who arrived with her two young children at a food bank as it was closing for the night. She said, “Please help me. I have $10 to my name, my children haven’t eaten today, and I need to put gas in my car to drive to a job interview tomorrow. If I spend this $10 on food tonight, they’ll still be hungry tomorrow. I won’t have any money, and I won’t be able to go to my job interview.”

Sadly, this mother’s struggles are now common in America. This is why hundreds of anti-hunger advocates are descending on Capitol Hill today, adorned with buttons that say,   “#endhungernow, Build Political Will.”  They are urging our public officials to ensure that the federal nutrition safety net remains strong and fully funded as Congress makes critical policy decisions on appropriations, the Federal budget and Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

Food insecurity exists in every community across the country, and the numbers are startlingly high. The Department of Agriculture has reported for each of the last seven years that between 48 and 50 million people in our nation are food insecure—that’s one in seven people. And these are people, not numbers, including struggling families, older Americans, people with disabilities, immigrants, veterans and 15 million children.

It is common sense that proper nutrition promotes good health, just as a lack of it can lead to illness. Studies show that food insecurity can have a devastating impact on a child’s cognitive, behavioral and physical development and can hinder a child’s academic achievement and even their workforce preparedness and performance as adults. Hunger can take away a child’s opportunity to achieve a bright future and consequently inhibits the prosperity of our nation.

For too many older adults limited income and poor mobility create obstacles that hinder their ability to get the food they need to function optimally.

When we reduce food insecurity, more children will learn, more older Americans will remain healthy and stay in their homes longer, workers will be more productive, and America will be a healthier and more economically stable nation.  

Recognizing that we have a responsibility to ensure that all Americans have access to the nutrition they need to grow, thrive, our national government, on a bipartisan basis, has long supported federal programs that provide low-income Americans with food and that help lift their families out of poverty.

The economy has improved in recent years and the number of unemployed has fallen, yet many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet. Greater investments are needed to help people living on the brink of hunger.

That is why, today, our advocates are asking Congress to:

·         Pass a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization soon to help children get the nutritious food they need at school, in child care, on weekends, and over long summer breaks.

·         Maintain the current structure of, and strengthen, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other federal nutrition programs that provide much-needed food for millions of low-income Americans; help keep families out of poverty; respond well to changes in the economy, to natural disasters and to families’ changing needs.

If our nation is to be strong, healthy and prosperous, we must first ensure that people have enough to eat to thrive and to reach their full potential. We can end hunger, but it requires political will. Congress can and must lead this effort by declaring that they, too, are ready to #endhungernow.

Aviv is the chief executive officer of Feeding America. Weill is the president of the Food Research and Action Center.

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