An amendment proposed by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to create a national commission aimed at alleviating hunger in the United States was adopted by the full House Appropriations Committee today.
The bipartisan group, which would be known as the National Commission on Hunger, would develop recommendations to encourage public-private partnerships and greater involvement from community and faith-based groups to reduce the need for government nutrition programs while still providing a safety net for the poor and hungry.
The amendment to the FY 2014 spending bill that funds the Department of Agriculture was endorsed by the Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, RESULTS and Feeding America. The House is expected to take up the bill next month.
The federal government presently provides roughly 96 percent of the money spent on food assistance, whereas private charities provide a mere 4 percent, according to Wolf.
"This is both unacceptable and unsustainable given our current fiscal woes as a nation," Wolf said. "I believe it's important for the government to continue to provide a safety net for those who fall on hard times, but the simple reality is that until we fully address our nation's exploding debt and deficit, further cuts to discretionary spending -- like food stamps -- are all but inevitable. My goal is for the commission to develop ways to decrease the number of hungry Americans using every resource available."
Wolf said examples of innovative ways to combat hunger include incentivizing farmers to set aside land for the purpose of gleaning and allowing it to be qualified as a charitable gift; encouraging local companies, rotaries, Kiwanis Clubs, PTAs, law firms and schools to hold food drives twice a year to restock and replenish the empty shelves in area food pantries; and having farmers set aside an acre of their land for the local Scout group to cultivate and then donate to an area food bank.
During debate on the amendment in committee markup, Wolf said you could help solve the problem "if every corporation had two food drives every year, if every civic group had two food drives every year, if every school in the nation had two food drives every year -- and not just at Christmas and Thanksgiving."
Wolf also suggested that every governor in the nation have a member of their staff serve as a Hunger Coordinator to help coordinate with food banks and food pantries where there is a need.
Wolf has been a longtime advocate for ending domestic hunger. He has worked closely with food banks and pantries across the 10th District for a number of years and regularly encourages businesses, schools and civic groups to hold food drives. He also pushed for the creation of the extremely successful Feds Feed Families food drive that has collected more than 15.2 million pounds of food from federal workers since 2009. The 2013 nationwide drive started June 1 and runs through August 28.
In 2011, Wolf was successful having language included in the FY 2012 agriculture spending bill to expand the Good Samaritan Law to allow schools to give excess food to local food banks, pantries and shelters without fear of being sued.
In speech at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event last month addressing the poor and vulnerable in the U.S., Wolf pointed out that one in six Americans struggle to provide enough food for their families at some point in a given year.
"Surely we can all agree that domestic hunger is unacceptable and that in the land of plenty, even during a time of relative austerity, none should be left wanting," he said during his speech.