Rep. Jim McGovern's 3rd "End Hunger Now" Speech: A Place at the Table
U.S. Representative James P. McGovern
"A Place at the Table"
February 26, 2013
Once again, I rise to talk about the issue of hunger in America. There are over 50 million Americans who go hungry each year. That's about one in every six Americans who don't know where their meal is coming from on any given day. M. Speaker, that is unconscionable in the richest, most prosperous country in the world.
Unfortunately, too many people simply don't know that there's a hunger problem in America. But that is going to change with a new documentary called "A Place at the Table."
M. Speaker, this powerful film shows how hunger actually affects every day Americans. Specifically, "A Place at the Table" documents people from all walks of life - from inner city Philadelphia to rural Colorado - and it shows how they struggle not just to put healthy food on their kitchen tables but, in some cases, to put any food on the table at all.
The film doesn't just show how people struggle with food. It shows how the lack of food impacts the health of children and the capacity for kids to pay attention and learn in class.
In all candor, M. Speaker, I play a small part in this film and I'm pleased the filmmakers allowed me to give my thoughts on the problem of hunger in America and ways we can address it. But this film is not about my opinions; it's about the challenges facing the people in this movie.
It's about how our country got to the place where over 50 million people - or one in six Americans -are food insecure or hungry. It's about how our legislative policies are not meeting the needs of the hungry, especially as low- and middle-income families continue to struggle during this economic recovery. It's about how parents and grandparents are trying to take care of their families but are falling short of doing so on their own. It's about how private organizations like churches and food banks are trying to fill in the gaps but are struggling to do so because the need that is so great.
And ultimately, it's about how we as a nation have the chance to rise up and End Hunger Now. It's about how we can and must develop a plan to End Hunger Now.
M. Speaker, we have the means to End Hunger Now. We have the food to End Hunger Now. We have the knowledge to End Hunger Now. We just haven't mustered the political will to End Hunger Now and we - Members of Congress - should all be ashamed that one person, let alone over 50 million, goes hungry in America.
In 1968, CBS News broadcast an hour long program called "Hunger in America." It reshaped the view of hunger in this country. The day after that show aired, then-Senator George McGovern formed the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and worked with Senator Bob Dole and President Richard Nixon to reduce hunger in America. They almost eradicated it completely but we've clearly regressed in the decades since.
I hope "A Place at the Table," this critically important film, is the catalyst that jumpstarts a new effort to End Hunger Now. I believe we need White House leadership on this issue. I urge President Obama to watch this film and to follow up with a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition in order to tackle all the issues associated with hunger and nutrition and, specifically, to come up with a coordinated, unified plan to End Hunger Now. President Obama's leadership is critical if we're going to End Hunger Now.
Directors Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush, along with Executive Producer Tom Colicchio, have made a film that tells a powerful story. It's a story of a struggle in America, but a struggle we can overcome. It's a struggle to address a problem that we have the answer to. It's my hope that this film will spark a new movement to address both hunger and obesity so that we no longer see people struggling to put food on their table.
"A Place at the Table" is hard to watch because we all share the blame for the struggles faced by those in the film. I challenge anyone who watches it to walk away feeling unaffected. I've seen it many times already. I've been inspired by the individuals who are featured in the movie - people who struggle in poverty with great difficulty - and who struggle with great dignity.
I am also frustrated and angered by the film. It shows our failures - our moral failures - to end the scourge of hunger. The title of the film is appropriate - we all have our Place at the Table, and we need to take that place in order to End Hunger Now.
I yield back the balance of my time.