“This is such an important time in the history of our country, especially with regards to the critical problem of hunger. For the first time in America’s history, we have a President who was once a recipient of food stamps. Not only that, but President Obama has made a pledge to end child hunger by 2015. That’s only six years from now! There are currently 36.2 million Americans who live in homes that can’t afford enough food (the USDA calls them “food insecure”) and 12 million of those Americans are children. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has openly pledged his support of Obama’s plan as, “a challenge we should take seriously.” It’s incredible to have such support in fighting hunger at the Federal level. As Joel Berg argues, hunger is an issue that often only sees media attention at holidays and after major disasters. And, for better or for worse, in the US it is often media attention that molds public opinion and pushes policty change.
Not only are things beginning to move on a federal level, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia are also at unique times in their history, especially with regards to hunger. Pennsylvania is in an extremely influential political position right now. Senator Specter, while often controversial, has managed to claim a lot of power by voting for the stimulus bill. As the New York Times notes, Senator Specter was able to keep $6.5 billion, that’s right, billion, for medical research in the stimulus bill. Senator Casey, the junior senator, still has a strong voice and has been a supporter of multiple anti-hunger initiatives including his work on the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill.
Philadelphia is also lucky to have a Mayor who supports these anti-hunger initiatives. The USDA, under President Bush’s administration, has scheduled the close of Philadelphia’s Universal Feeding Program. The program, around since 1991, has allowed for Universal School lunches in 200 of Philadelphia’s 280 school’s based on census information about the surrounding area’s income levels. This cuts down on both paperwork and stigma. Many important players, including Mayor Nutter, the Philadelphia School District, Senator Casey and anti-hunger advocates in Philadelphia are fighting this decision.
This, albeit lengthily, takes me to my main point. The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger has teamed up with The Food Trust, Philabundance, the SHARE Food Program, PCCY, the Philadelphia GROW Project, and the Health Promotion Council to create an anti-hunger policy platform. The platform, which gets a nod from both KYW and the Philadelphia Inquirer, calls for change on hunger issues from many different levels of government. Some of the asks include making the Universal School Feeding Program permanent, passing a strong Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Bill in 2009, and increasing funding for the State Food Purchase Program.
Hopefully, with leadership on different levels who are willing to acknowledge the problem of hunger in America, these policy asks can be met and exceeded. I truly hope that President Obama’s pledge to end child hunger by 2015 happens.”