On World Food Day, united in the fight against hunger at home and abroad
We are called, during trying times, to focus on those things we have in common. As members of Congress on this World Food Day, we hope that the universality of food—and the knowledge that too many around us don’t have enough to eat—is a reality that can unite us.
We sit together on the House Agriculture Committee, where we chair the subcommittees with jurisdiction over domestic and international anti-hunger programs. We work on issues that cross lines between urban and rural, farm and food, and hunger and plenty. We recognize the potential of an American agriculture and food system that is the best in the world, but we also realize the reality that too many people still can’t access enough of the bounty it provides.
Forty million Americans go hungry each day, and food insecurity is an issue in every county in the country. Sixteen million U.S. children and 5.4 million seniors live in households without enough to eat.
In Fresno, one in every three residents don’t know where their next meal will come from, and 40 percent of those are kids.
In Northeast Ohio, 16 percent of Clevelanders are food insecure, including one in every five kids.
Worldwide, 1.3 billion people lack access to sufficient food and more than 10,000 children die each day as a direct result of hunger.
This hunger, even if temporary, has lasting impacts in our local communities and around the world.
While poverty leads to hunger, hunger is also an economic drain that worsens poverty. Adults who don’t have enough to eat aren’t as productive or efficient in the workplace. This can lead to reduced job opportunities and unemployment. Hunger costs the U.S. $167 billion in lost economic productivity each year.
Within the health care industry alone, we could save $71 billion through access to more nutritious food. This is one of the reasons we have the school lunch and breakfast program.
Internationally, hunger can lead to political unrest, which then makes hunger worse by delaying or eliminating work in conflict regions to combat food insecurity. Currently, 60 percent of the world’s hungry live in conflict areas, and ten of the world’s 13 worst food crises are driven by conflict.
We are proud to help alleviate this need thorough the U.S. food aid system, which pairs U.S. farm goods with the people who need them most. This system is a win-win-win for hungry people, farmers, and the world. Hungry people get help when they need it most, farmers get additional markets for their products, and everyone gets a more secure and stable world.
Key U.S. domestic and international anti-hunger initiatives, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Food for Peace, Food for Progress, and the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Programs, have taken great strides toward fighting domestic and global hunger. In 2017, SNAP lifted more than 3.4 million Americans out of poverty. Abroad, more than 4 billion people in 154 countries have benefited from U.S. food assistance. Last year, 2.5 million metric tons of U.S.-produced food and farm products went to help communities recover, become more resilient, and reduce their need for future aid.
But we still struggle to achieve a world without hunger. The current administration has pushed drastic cuts or complete elimination for SNAP, Food for Peace, McGovern Dole, and other programs. If we want to end hunger, we cannot allow opponents of these programs to frame the anti-hunger effort as zero sum – that helping someone means someone else must have less.
We are the most capable economy in the world, and the fact that so many of our children, our seniors, and our working parents go hungry is a disgrace. Anti-hunger programs combine to represent just over 2 percent of our federal budget. The fact that we are now questioning whether to be a global leader only adds more shame.
We can accomplish all these things if we can muster the courage.
But that means standing up to support food-insecure families both in the U.S. and elsewhere. At home and around the world, food is a national security issue.
When better than World Food Day to recognize that?
Congressman Jim Costa has represented California’s 16th District since 2005. He chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture, and sits on the House Foreign Affairs and Natural Resources Committees. Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge has represented Ohio’s 11th District since 2008. She chairs the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Departmental Operations, and sits on the House Education and Labor, and Administration Committees.