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Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, President Obama's State of the Union speech 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 do not have to face. And to be frank, there are too many voices in the United States 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 truly to 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, and it is a costly problem. This is a problem that is not going away unless we act.
Mr. Speaker, over 50 million people are hungry in America. There are more than 50 million people who struggle to put food on their tables. Many of these are hardworking people whose jobs just do not pay enough to feed their families. Many are jobless, and many are homeless.
We need to use every opportunity we have to talk about it and 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. SNAP, or food stamps, is one of the most important parts of that safety net.
There are a myriad of different initiatives being used to combat hunger in America. There are public, private, and nonprofit initiatives that are all very successful in their own ways. The problem is that these efforts--from Federal to State to local governments and from nonprofits, like churches and food banks, to for-profit businesses--are often working independently of each other. They are not always connected.
Mr. Speaker, we need to work smarter and more efficiently if we are 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 has not 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 our 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 and holistic 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 best they can address this problem?
As these agencies coordinate, we will need to involve antihunger safety net nonprofits, like our food banks, religious institutions, schools, and hospitals; and we need to bring in the business community, including the food and beverage community, financial institutions and manufacturers. We need to bring our doctors and nurses, our teachers and pastors, our business leaders and politicians, and, yes, the hungry together in one room to develop one plan to End Hunger Now. Then we need to agree to implement and execute the plan.
Mr. Speaker, hunger is a political condition. We have the means and the knowledge to End Hunger Now. We just don't have the political will. While hunger is a political condition, it should not 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 to say that we are going to End Hunger Now.
Mr. 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 to improve nutrition. I call on the White House to End Hunger Now, and I ask my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to join in all efforts to End Hunger Now. Mr. Speaker, ending hunger now is more than a nice phrase. It is something we must do. It is our moral obligation. It is what a great country like America should do--End Hunger Now.