President Obama and Congress need to work together in an area where bipartisan cooperation has been present before: fighting hunger.
With high unemployment at home, the demand for food banks is increasing. Child hunger rates in the U.S. are alarming. A recent Feeding America report says, "There are 314 counties in the U.S. where approximately one-third of children are struggling with food insecurity." Is your county one of them?
Children are struggling to access food. Nothing threatens America's future more than hungry and malnourished children.
Catherine D’Amato, president of the Greater Boston Food Bank, states, "These new statistics are staggering. Children suffer disproportionately from hunger. Not only are they more likely to experience hunger than adults, the impact on their young and growing bodies can leave lasting damage in the form of developmental delays that affect their health and school performance."
While hunger is growing in the U.S., support from the federal government is down. Food banks around the country face the prospect of empty shelves, unless action is taken.
The Federal Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) needs to be fully funded for the rest of 2011, and also be assured of congressional support for next year. TEFAP provides supplies for emergency food banks around the country. Even with the increased demand for food aid, TEFAP is currently about 37 percent below last year's funding level of 655 million. Food banks are facing supply shortages because of this. In addition, Congress has proposed reducing next year's TEFAP funding level.
Vicki Escarra, the president of Feeding America, says “With the holiday season approaching and with food banks still facing the very real possibility that federal funding for food programs could be cut in FY2012, more help is still needed."
On the global scene, hunger is so powerful a force that, if unchecked, will devastate America's foreign policy. There is a famine taking place in East Africa, and tens of thousands of children have perished.
There are many other hunger crisis points where lack of food threatens lives, stability and development. Take the country where peace has remained elusive for years: Afghanistan. Fighting hunger is an essential part of the solution to the problem of peace in Afghanistan. Yet they too are experiencing drought. We can hear the warnings of a hunger storm there.
Silke Buhr of the UN World Food Programme says, "WFP is concerned that drought conditions in the country have had a significant impact on crop production and will lead to more people needing food assistance. These new needs come at a time when we are already facing major resource shortfalls and have already had to make some really tough decisions to priorities how we use our resources."