Hunger isn’t a new concept and it isn’t a new problem. We’ve been fighting hunger for a long time and, while we’ve made significant strides in recent decades, there is no end to this problem in sight.
We know that hunger transcends age, race, and gender. In the most difficult economic times, like the recession we’re still slowly recovering from today, even the middle class is not immune from hunger.
The face of hunger today isn’t the one we’re used to seeing. Most people still think of the sunken eyes and swollen bellies of poor children in a far-off African country. They don’t think of an overweight or obese neighbor; they don’t think of a chronically ill senior citizen; they don’t think of an underachieving student in their neighborhood school.
But those are the faces of hunger in the 21st century. People are grappling with food insecurity all around us. More than 50 million people in the United States, including nearly 17 million children, live in families that struggle to put food on the table. Food-insecure families are often forced to make difficult choices between important necessities, like choosing between groceries or paying for rent, medical care, transportation, or utilities. Low-income families are forced into a diet of low-cost, high-calorie, nutrient-deficient foods. Hunger can impact an adult’s ability to maintain good health and hold down a job, and it can cripple a child’s ability to concentrate and perform well in school.
It’s not a lack of food or know-how that’s allowing hunger to persist in America. We have the food, resources and knowledge to tackle and beat food insecurity. We do. We know how to get the job done. Yet the problem persists and even grows, and that’s simply due to a lack of political will. Hunger is, in the end, a political condition.
That’s why I have called for a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition. It’s simple: We need the President to seize this issue. We need the President to stand up and say this is a national priority, one that we will take on sooner rather than later.
I’m grateful for the work the First Lady has done on nutrition and healthy eating. We are learning more and more about healthy food and fitness thanks to her efforts. But we do a disservice to that effort if we don’t address food insecurity at the same time.
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