We can end hunger, globally and at home. This is not a sentimental Christmas wish; it is a reality. We have the tools, expertise, and resources to ensure that within two decades every person will have enough to eat. What is needed is the political will.
That is why Christians all over the world are joining Pope Francis in supporting a world-wide "wave of prayer" on December 10. Organized by Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of international Catholic charities in the Vatican, this wave of prayer is being supported by hundreds of Christian organizations sweeping across the globe. Here in Washington D.C., I will be joining other faith leaders from the Circle of Protection in leading a prayer service on the East Capitol Lawn at noon. Just as JFK declared that within a decade we would be on the moon, Christians are declaring the equally attainable vision that we will end hunger.
It is especially appropriate that this global wave -- which will begin at noon on Dec 10 on the island of Samoa and proceed west at noon in each subsequent time zone -- comes during the Christmas season. At its core, Christmas is about the seemingly impossible becoming a reality. An unwed girl can conceive the divine, and a child born in a manger can usher in the kingdom of God. Our faith teaches that all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us. The Gospel message that the hungry will be filled is attainable here and now.
The fact is, we have already made significant strides in reaching this vision as Good leads us through an exodus from hunger. In 2000 the global community set a series of Millennium Development Goals, including cutting global poverty and hunger in half by 2015. The benchmarks for poverty have already been met, and the goal of halving hunger is within our reach. There are fewer hungry people in the world today than there were at the turn of the millennium.
But this is not just a global challenge. It may be hard to believe, but even here in America, millions of American families regularly go without enough food -- not because they are on the latest fad diet but because they cannot afford to eat. Nearly 16 million children live in households where parents cannot guarantee there will be enough to eat. One-in-six Americans struggled with putting food on the table in the past year.
The United States is richest country in the world yet it has among the highest rates of hunger. Yet our Congressional leaders are making hunger worse. They just cut the equivalent of 10 million meals a day from SNAP, more than what every church and charity in America provides on their own. Nearly 5 million of those meals were taken away from hungry American children, and a big chunk of the remainder was taken from the 900,000 veterans who rely on food stamps to avoid hunger.
Only this Congress would think the best way to balance our budget is by making our children and veterans go hungry. As if that weren't enough, Congress is considering additional cuts to SNAP that could be 4-5 times as large as the ones that just went into effect.
One thing is clear: we will not end hunger in America by slashing our most effective anti-hunger program that so many American families depend on as they seek to pull themselves out of this recession! Neither can they climb the ladders of opportunity if a key component of the safety net is in shreds.
Thankfully, we do know how to end hunger in America. Bread for the World recently released our 2014 Hunger Report: Ending Hunger in America outlining a plan to cut U.S. hunger in half in a decade and eradicate it altogether by 2030. The plan includes concrete steps encompassing 1) a jobs agenda 2) a stronger safety net 3) human capital development and 4) public-private partnerships to support innovative, community led initiatives against hunger.
Christians of the world are calling on our leaders to act. We are not asking for anything more than we know can be done. Join us in prayer at noon on Dec. 10 and together we can create a world in which the lowly are lifted up and the hungry are filled.