NATIONAL HUNGER AWARENESS DAY -- (Senate - June 06, 2006)
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, today is National Hunger Awareness Day, and it is an opportunity for all of us to pledge a greater effort to deal more effectively with this festering problem that shames our Nation and has become even more serious in recent years. Surely we can all do more to care for neighbors and fellow citizens who fall on hard times.
The number of Americans living in hunger or on the brink of hunger now totals 38 million--5 million more than when President Bush took office. That total includes almost 14 million children, 972,000 more since 2000.
America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest network of emergency food providers, recently conducted a series of interviews with its clients, and the report is astounding. Its emergency food providers serve 4.5 million different people a week--and 24 to 27 million people a year.
Over 36 percent of its clients are children under 18 years old, and 10 percent are elderly. Another 36 percent of its clients live in households with at least one employed adult.
These statistics are shameful. Our Nation's neediest individuals should not be forced to choose between paying for food and paying the rent or paying for medicine.
In Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank serves over 320,000 people a year--34 percent of them are under 18. All of us in the Commonwealth are grateful that we have food providers like the Greater Boston Food Bank, but they should not have to wage the battle alone. Government can't stand idle in the face of this great tragedy. We have programs in place to fight hunger, but they continue to be underfunded and underused.
Day in and day out, the needs of millions of Americans living in hunger are ignored, and too often their voices have been silenced. Their battle is a constant ongoing struggle. It undermines their productivity, their earning power, and their health. It keeps their children from concentrating and learning in school. We all need to do more to combat it. Government, corporations, communities, and citizens must work together to develop better policies and faster responses.
In 1996, the Clinton administration pledged to begin an effort to cut hunger in half in the United States by 2010, and the strong economy enabled us to make significant progress toward that goal. Hunger decreased steadily through 2000. We now have 4 years left to fulfill that commitment.
The fastest, most direct way to reduce hunger in the Nation is to improve and expand current Federal nutrition programs. Sadly, the current administration proposes to change proven and effective programs such as food stamps and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The administration also proposes to eliminate the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides modest food packages to low-income seniors and to mothers with children up to age 6.
It is time to do more for the most vulnerable in our society. National Hunger Awareness Day is our chance to pledge to eradicate hunger in America--and to mean it when we say it.