Last week, I was on a phone call with more than one thousand Americans.
My organization, Feeding America, hosted a virtual town hall meeting with Rachael Ray to discuss Child Nutrition Reauthorization and what we can do to get the bill fully funded. We were joined by hundreds (thousands) of everyday citizens from across the United States, eager to learn how they could help.
I never cease to be amazed by how compassionate and motivated hunger advocates are. We had all types of people bringing questions and opinions to the table. A professor looking to get her students involved, an aunt concerned about the nutritional value of school lunches, even a mother whose child loves and appreciates Rachael's healthy recipes.
Hunger exists in every state and every county. It affects people of all ages, and it is particularly devastating for children. Insufficient nutrition jeopardizes a child's physical health, capacity to learn, and behavioral and social development. Nearly one in four children in this country is food insecure, meaning they do not always know where they will get their next meal.
Every five years, Congress re-examines the laws that govern child nutrition programs. This gives our network of food banks and advocates an opportunity to make Congress aware of how well the programs are operating and to call for changes. The current authorization period for the Child Nutrition Act expires this autumn, so Congress needs to finish the five-year reauthorization of this act prior to that date.
This is the most important public policy addressing hunger in America right now. The programs under the Child Nutrition Act include the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs, the Summer Food Service Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and WIC. All of these play a vital role in addressing the needs of food-insecure children, especially during the critical periods when they are out of school. Particularly because the programs reach children where they are - at school; and when they need food the most - for breakfast and throughout the summer.
We must remember that many low-income children simply do not have access to healthy foods. Congress must address this issue if it is serious about ending childhood hunger. If we want Congress to take action, we must make sure they know that we are serious.
As Rachael Ray said on the call, "We need to open our big mouths and tell Congress we need a fully funded Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act!" She stressed that this is our last chance for five years to get funding for child nutrition programs. We need to get involved and contact our legislators to urge them to get a good bill passed.
Just as Rachael has gotten her followers involved in hunger advocacy, each and every one of us can go to our friends and our networks and tell them why they should be passionate. You can visit hungeractioncenter.org for help getting started and tips on contacting your representatives.
Eradicating hunger will take the hard work of countless people across the country. The good news is that we are organized and we are dedicated. All of the Americans we heard from last week participated because they want to see change. This is our opportunity to help our nation's children achieve their fullest potential.