During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama announced a goal of of ending childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. Since taking office, President Obama, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and other members of the Administration have reiterated that commitment.
FRAC's 2015 blog covers the latest news and developments of the 2015 initiative at the national and state levels.
Kimberley Chin (KC), director of Maryland Hunger Solutions, and Alexandra Ashbrook (AA), director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, both of which are FRAC initiatives, attended the 2015 Listening Session held in New York City on October 7. Here are their thoughts:
AA: It was a good crowd, about 60 people in the room and 23 giving testimony. Most of them were delighted that President Obama set a goal of ending childhood hunger by 2015.
KC: And, a lot of people had worked through the FRAC 2015 proposal and mentioned it during their testimony.
AA: And many of them focused on the federal nutrition programs, how important they are to achieving the 2015 goal. For me, it drove home the point that the 2015 goal is achievable, and, together, we can make this happen.
KC: People also expressed some real concerns about the federal nutrition programs – that they need to be strengthened.
AA: That’s definitely true. The programs need to be strengthened so they reach more low-income people. That could be by serving breakfast in the classroom so more low-income children can participate or expanding afterschool meals to all states. Access needs to be front and center.
KC: And, it was important that the session included people who had actually participated in SNAP and other programs.
AA: Mariana Chilton – she’s responsible for the Witnesses to Hunger project – brought Tangela Federick to the hearing. Tangela’s a Witness to Hunger participant and said that we need to remember that there are human faces behind the numbers and that the strategies we’re discussing impact real people.
KC: I agree with Tangela that we shouldn’t forget the faces behind the statistics. Right now, USDA reports 12.4 million children living in households that struggle against hunger. John Cook pointed out that there are an additional 8.8 million children that are in households with “marginal food security,” and they are facing the same health consequences that food insecure children face.
AA: A lot of the discussion did focus on the implications of hunger on children’s health. And, the session raised interactions in another way also: a number of people said we need to look beyond the federal nutrition programs to truly end hunger. We need to look at things like better wages, affordable health insurance, refundable tax credits, and other ways to address poverty. There was definitely recognition among the speakers that achieving President Obama’s goal is not just in the hands of USDA, but other agencies too. Kimberley shared a great analogy about Duncan and Sebelius.
KC: Just look at H1N1 – Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are out there together talking about the virus and how to prevent it. Federal agencies can work together. Ending hunger should rise to this level.