There is no community in America that is immune to hunger -- even if it goes largely unseen and untold. We’re aiming to change that. You may see people swarming Capitol Hill tomorrow sporting red buttons that declare “#EndHungerNow.” They’re here from across the country to share stories about the impact of hunger in their communities, and to ask their members of Congress to lead efforts to end hunger by strengthening and investing in the federal nutrition programs.
The federal nutrition programs are examples of public policy at its best and have a long history of holding the line against the most devastating impacts of poverty and hunger. Investing in ending hunger is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do with a large return on investment. Hunger increases illness and health care costs, lowers worker productivity, harms children’s development, and diminishes children’s educational achievement. Were it not for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), schools meals, afterschool and child care food, senior meals, WIC, commodity programs and other safety net programs, hunger and its impacts in our nation would be far worse.
The federal nutrition programs are all good programs that could be made even better and stronger in the fight against hunger – and Congress has the chance to do just that this year.
First, Congress must make hunger a priority in our nation’s budget and maintain its historic bipartisan commitment to protecting the structure and funding of programs that provide food assistance to vulnerable low-income households.
And it must build on success with adequate funding and positive policy initiatives for the programs that help feed our children in the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which includes school, after school, child care, and summer meals. Significant gaps remain, particularly in programs that serve children when they are too young for school or are away from school (afterschool, on weekends and during the summer). A good reauthorization bill would close these gaps, but it needs an investment of new funding to do just that. Investing in these programs is an investment in America’s children and in our collective future. It is an investment that will deliver dividends for years to come.
We can end hunger. Congress can – and must lead – this effort by declaring that it too is ready to #EndHungerNow.
Aiken is the chief executive officer of Feeding America. Weill is the president of the Food Research and Action Center.