Rep. Jim McGovern's 2nd 'End Hunger Now' speech: A call for a White House Conference on Hunger
Thursday February 14, 2013
President Obama's fourth State of the Union was memorable and important for a number of reasons. I'm pleased the president talked about gun violence, climate change, voting rights, and, of course, jobs and the economy.
I'm especially pleased that, for the first time in more than a decade, the State of the Union had a real focus on poverty and the need to help those who, economically, are the most vulnerable in our nation.
Poverty is the root cause of many of our nation's problems. Those in poverty face challenges that middle- and higher-income families simply don't have to face. And, to be frank, there are too many voices in Congress that are silent on this issue.
So I commend the President for talking about poverty, which we must confront and address if we are to truly fulfill our mandate to form a more perfect union.
One of the most devastating effects of poverty is hunger, and we cannot End Hunger Now if we're not talking about it. This is a big problem. This is a problem that is not going away unless we act.
M. Speaker, over 50 million people are hungry in America - more than 50 million who struggle to put food their tables. Many of these are hard-working people whose jobs just do not pay enough to feed their families. We need to use every opportunity we have to talk about it, to shine a light on the plight of the hungry, to take hunger out of the shadows and rededicate ourselves to the need to End Hunger Now.
As I said last week, just because over 50 million people in this country struggle to put food on their tables doesn't mean that we have mass starvation in America. Thankfully, we have developed a safety net that helps protect the vast majority of the hungry.
There are a myriad of different initiatives being used to combat hunger in America. These are public, private and non-profit initiatives that are all very successful in their own ways. The problem is that these efforts - from federal to state to local governments; from non-profits like churches and food banks to for-profit businesses - are working independently of each other; they are not connected.
M. Speaker, we need to work smarter and more efficiently if we're going to End Hunger Now.
We need to bring everyone together and connect the dots.
We need a plan.
That's why I've called for a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition.
Over the years, there have been citywide, countywide and statewide hunger summits. Food banks, hospitals, colleges and universities have all held these events. But there hasn't been one nationwide hunger summit, convened by the White House, since President Nixon hosted such a summit in 1969 - over 44 years ago!
We need this conference today more than ever. Because hunger is getting worse in America, not better. Our deficit and debt are forcing us to do more with less, and that means we need to be more efficient and streamlined with our resources. Our federal agencies should be talking to each other and addressing hunger in a more comprehensive way.
Why shouldn't the Departments of Labor, of Health and Human Services, of Housing and Urban Development, and, yes, the Department of Defense sit down and talk about the impact hunger and nutrition have on their efforts and how they can best address the problem?
As these agencies coordinate, we will need to involve anti-hunger safety net non-profits like our food banks, religious institutions, schools and hospitals. And we need to bring in the business community, including the food and beverage industry, financial institutions and manufacturers.
We need to bring our doctors, nurses, teachers, pastors, business leaders, politicians and - yes - the hungry together in one room to develop one plan to End Hunger Now. And then we need to agree to implement and execute that plan.
M. Speaker, hunger is a political condition. We have the means and knowledge to End Hunger Now, we just don't have the political will. And while hunger is a political condition, it shouldn't be a partisan issue. A White House Conference on Food and Nutrition is the forum that we need to galvanize political will to finally end hunger in America.
Ending hunger takes bold leadership. It takes Presidential leadership. Because the President is the only one who can call everyone together, who can get everyone in the same room and on the same page in order to come up with one meaningful and achievable plan. We need the President to rise to the occasion and say that we are going to End Hunger Now.
M. Speaker, I call on the White House to host a Conference on Food and Nutrition. I call on the White House to commit to ending hunger in America just as they are working to reduce obesity and improve nutrition. I call on the White House to End Hunger Now.
I yield back the balance of my time.