Op-Ed: Millions Still Wonder When Their Next Meal Will Be

Bread for the World's LaVida Davis on the ongoing struggle to feed the neediest and end hunger in America.

hunger in america

Mark Girdner stacks donated food boxes at the Food Bank in the southern Californian town of El Centro, a town of 50,000 people where 30.4 percent of the work-age population are without employment. (Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images).

Seventeen million. That’s the number of U.S. children living in households that cannot always be sure of where their next meal will come from. Many parents skip meals every day to make sure that their children have enough. This is unacceptable in the world’s wealthiest nation, with more than enough food for everyone.

Unfortunately, it is a common harsh reality for parents like Barbie Izquierdo, a young mother featured in the new documentary, A Place at the Table. Having lost her job during the recession, Barbie was often unable to buy enough food for her daughter, son, and herself. Some days, she skipped meals to make sure that her children ate.

As the director for grassroots organizing and capacity building at Bread for the World, I am all too familiar with stories like this. The tables of young families are most often the ones standing bare. Households with children are twice as likely to be food insecure. We frequently meet parents who have lost their jobs and are struggling to provide basic nutrition for their children. We also meet people who are employed—often working two or even three jobs—but are still unable to make ends meet.

Related: Comlete Coverage of America's Hidden Hunger Crisis

These families depend on programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps); Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to help them get back on their feet and care for their children when times are tough. These programs are effective in reducing poverty and hunger in America. The U.S. Census Bureau poverty statistics do not account for SNAP and the EITC, but if they did, data would show that SNAP kept nearly 4 million people out of poverty last year—including 1.7 million children. And the EITC lifted 5.7 million people over the poverty line—including more than 3 million children.

However, Congress’ ongoing work to balance our budget could result in across-the-board cuts to many of these anti-poverty programs.

This is where Bread for the World’s comes in. We are working to prevent deep funding cuts to programs that save lives and help people overcome poverty. We also seek a bold but achievable goal—a united plan to end hunger in America. Through our annual Offering of Letters campaign, our members and faithful advocates will petition President Obama to work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in America within a generation. This is a timely new path for Bread for the World. As in years past, we will continue to send letters to members of Congress asking them to protect programs vital to poor and hungry people.

A Place at the Table: Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters launched on March 1, the same day A Place at the Table began showing in theaters nationwide. We believe that our collective voice can create the political will to ensure a place at the table for all people.

More coverage of America's Hidden Hunger Crisis from TakePart:

• America’s Grandparents Are Hidden Victims of Our Hunger Crisis

• This Restaurant Chain Doesn’t Mind Giving Away Its Food

• Op-Ed: Sequestration Pushes People Away From the Table

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