The holiday season is quickly approaching, and every House Democrat is still fighting for their piece of the pie in the Build Back Better Act. But there are kids all over the country that will have no pie at all this holiday season. Amid the twists and turns, tight margins, and delayed votes on Capitol Hill making headlines, one thing remains true: American families need to know their representatives are working for them. And on the simplest level — that looks like helping families meet their basic needs, including making sure their children don’t go hungry.

According to the USDA, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children in the United States, are food insecure. The pandemic has increased food insecurity among families with children and communities of color, who were already facing hunger at much higher rates before the pandemic. Every community in the country is home to families who face hunger. But rural communities are especially hard hit by hunger. 

The problem is more widespread than you might think — and it can be hidden. Williamson County, Tenn., is the 8th wealthiest county in the United States. 30,000 of its 42,000 K-12 students rely on meals at school for their nutrition. That's 71 percent.

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Just this weekend, we learned that an estimated 160,000 active duty military members are having trouble feeding their families. They defend our country, but they can’t feed their kids. It’s why hundreds of retired generals and admirals are pressuring lawmakers on the Hill to address this growing national nutrition crisis. Because the way things are going poses an existential threat to the future of our nation and our ability to sustain an all-volunteer force. Policymakers in Washington prioritized food security at the beginning of the pandemic, but they cannot stop now.

House Democrats are still working to reach a consensus and pass a family investment package — which includes responses to the ongoing hunger problem — to send to the Senate. Significant funding to expand the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is on the line. This small, proven, common-sense provision allows more kids to be fed in school without poverty tests and paperwork, especially in those communities that need the help the most. A robust CEP would make school meals available to every child who needs one. 

While it seems that House Democrats are set to pass their version of the bill, senators must step up their efforts for child nutrition. That means not just keeping CEP intact but holding firm on meaningful funding that makes a difference. To the public, it seems lawmakers right now are focused on the fights. But ending child hunger is popular in rural areas, suburban areas, and urban areas. It can be a bipartisan win that makes a profound difference in the daily lives of families across the country.

More importantly, we know it works. We’ve been feeding all kids in K-12 public schools due to pandemic measures, and it’s making a difference. We’ve seen how efficient it is because it gets food straight into children’s mouths without questions asked. Students with greater food security have higher retention and better attendance, graduation rates and academic performance. Graduates are much more likely to be employed and make economic contributions to their local communities. 

When Congress passes something, whatever that may be — keep CEP in there, robustly fund it, and make it meaningful because ending child hunger is a straightforward, critical win. It’s the certainty that American families need right now. And it allows everyone to pull up a chair and have a seat at the American table. 

Bradley Tusk is a venture capitalist and political strategist who previously served as campaign manager for former New York mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. He is the founder and CEO of Tusk Philanthropies, which funds and runs legislative campaigns in states to expand access to food assistance programs, especially school breakfast and lunch.