Nutrition subcommittee members fight hunger for the holidays

As families across the country prepared for Thanksgiving, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) kicked off the week with a 42-mile, two-day walk as part of the sixth annual “Monte’s March” in Massachusetts, which aims to raise awareness and money for those suffering from food insecurity.

McGovern, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee’s subpanel on nutrition, said the walk is “uplifting” each year, but especially in 2016 after the divisive presidential election.

“I’ve met hungry children in my district and in other parts of this country. If you ever see a child who is hungry, it breaks your heart,” McGovern said. “I’m frustrated oftentimes with the lack of progress with this issue here in Washington, so I do things like support our local food banks.”

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According to a GuideStar study, about half of charities surveyed reported receiving a majority of their contributions between October and December, otherwise known as “Giving Season.” And a study from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reported that 42.7 percent of high-net-worth donors gave more during the holidays than the rest of the year, with 44.4 percent giving “about the same.”

For the House’s nutrition subcommittee, the holidays are a time to help alleviate hunger in members’ home districts and nationwide. More than 42 million Americans lived in food-insecure households in 2015, according to the Department of Agriculture’s economic research service.

Chairwoman Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) began giving back to those in need long before her role in public office. She spent four years living in Romania with her husband as missionaries to provide children in need with food and medical supplies.

To inform her legislative decision-making, Walorski visits community organizations in her state’s 2nd Congressional District to hear feedback and bring those ideas back to the nation’s capital.

“I’ve seen poverty up close, both overseas and here in my own district, and I’ve seen the important work done by those on the front lines of the fight against poverty,” Walorski said in a statement.

“I never miss a chance to visit great community organizations like the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, Elkhart’s Church Community Services, or Granger Community Church and lend a hand as they help provide food to families in need.”

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) has spent a few years participating in Project C.O.O.L., which stands for Community Outreach of Love.  

Through the nonprofit, which partners with local churches to improve neighborhoods in Massillon, Ohio, Gibbs helped build a front porch last year. And last weekend, Gibbs served meals to World War II veterans for an annual Pearl Harbor Day commemorative dinner, according to his staff.

Subcommittee member Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHarris wins endorsement of former CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge The Hill's Morning Report — DOJ's planned executions stir new debate Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment MORE (D-Ohio), a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that while some families may be celebrating during the holiday season, “far too many struggle to put food on the table and gifts in the hands of those they love.”

Fudge says she has worked with various organizations to benefit more than 180,000 of her constituents in Ohio’s 11th District who live in poverty. These groups include the Greater Cleveland Area Foodbank, the National Pork Producers Council, the Ohio Pork Council and Wal-Mart, which provide Thanksgiving food baskets.

“Making things better for others is one of the reasons why each year, my staff and I volunteer and/or donate items during the holiday season,” Fudge said in a statement. “Last year, we adopted a family, providing them with toys, clothing, and toiletries. This year, we will donate, prepare and serve those spending the holidays in our district’s Ronald McDonald House.”

McGovern said it’s important for people to give back during this holiday season, but more important to pay attention all year long.

The Massachusetts Democrat said he fears what President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president MORE and the Republican-controlled Congress may do to hunger safety nets, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps.

“For me to respond to that is to fight like hell on behalf of those people who rely on programs like SNAP and the child nutrition programs that we have,” McGovern said. “But also I feel like it’s important for people to get up every day and do something good and do something to help someone.”

Those looking to get involved can find a list of local food pantries at FoodPantries.org. In the D.C. area, volunteers are welcome at the Capital Area Food Bank (202-644-9800), Bread for the City (202-265-2400) and D.C. Hunger Solutions (202-640-1088), among others.