The holidays, for me, are bittersweet. I love getting together with my daughters and our family and friends, and I particularly look forward to making my grandmother's cornbread stuffing -- but at a time when most Americans are celebrating abundance, one in six of us is not getting enough to eat.
As the leader of a hunger-relief charity, I think about this often and wonder how the holidays must feel to a food-insecure family. Think about it just for a moment: What if this year, instead of buying special items on your Thanksgiving shopping list, you were counting change to see if you have enough to buy milk for your family? Instead of stuffing an enormous turkey, you were trying to figure out how to make the last few items in your pantry last the rest of the month? Or when your children's classmates talked about their upcoming family feast, they listened, silently hoping that there would be food on their table, too?
Hunger is an invisible problem in America--though many people wouldn't recognize it, it affects people all around us-- perhaps it's a friend who has lost a job, a child at your son or daughter's school, or an elderly neighbor on a fixed income. With the number of people affected by the economy, it is likely that each of us knows someone who is food insecure.
The number of people in need is staggering -- 49 million people in this great country cannot regularly afford to buy food. Unemployment, poverty and high food costs are making it harder for families to cope in these tough economic times. And with funding for critical nutrition programs at risk of being cut, it will be even harder for hunger-relief charities like Feeding America to provide enough food for everyone in need.
As we saw during the Depression, hunger can cripple a society. How can America's economy grow and our nation prosper if our citizens cannot afford such a basic need as food?
That's why I am urging Huffington Post readers to do something to help fight hunger in America.
Everyone has an opportunity to take a small action that will have a big impact for hungry families:
Donate. Instead of the usual gift card or tie, you can Give a Meal to help families who need help putting food on the table. Every dollar donated helps Feeding America provide eight meals to people in need.
Advocate. Call 877-698-8228 and enter your zip code to be directed to your senator's office. Ask them to please weigh in with the super committee personally, and urge them to reject any proposals that would cut anti-hunger programs like SNAP, TEFAP, CSFP, or WIC or other child nutrition programs during the deficit reduction process. Tell them, "our nation cannot afford to increase hunger in America."
Volunteer. You can volunteer to help your local food bank, food pantry or soup kitchen feed people during the holidays and on through the year. Volunteers are critical to our network's ability to feed 37 million people each year. In fact, last year, volunteers devoted more than 7 million hours to help Feeding America food banks across the country, saving our network more than $51 million dollars that can be put towards programs that feed people in need. Contact your local food banks to learn how you can help them feed people in your community.
Hunger is a serious problem in America, one that requires an urgent solution--struggling families cannot nourish themselves with the promise of better days ahead. Right now, do something to ensure that everyone has enough to eat this holiday season and throughout the year.