50 million people. According to the USDA, that's how many people are facing hunger, right here in our own communities. And more than 17 million of them are children.
We're talking about children in every community, and of parents from all backgrounds and income levels. Lost wages and homes, and depleted 401Ks, nest eggs, and college savings have left million families without the cushion they thought they'd have to fall back on in the event of an emergency. With greater frequency, we are seeing people, who once had well-paying jobs, nice homes, a couple of cars, and enough extra money for investments and vacations, seeking assistance from food pantries. As a mother, I can only imagine the dread parents must feel as they watch their resources dwindle, knowing that, soon, they'll have to worry about how they'll feed their children.
While experts claim that the worst of the recession is over, we know that millions of families are still struggling, and will continue to struggle for years to come. That's why it is imperative that Congress pass the Child Nutrition bill this year.
On Monday, Feeding America hosted a virtual Town Hall on Child Nutrition with 1,300 citizens across the country to discuss what's at stake if Congress doesn't pass the Child Nutrition bill. The message was clear: our children cannot afford to wait another year for improved access to nutrition.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, and Chef Tom Colicchio joined us for the Town Hall. As both Secretary Vilsack and Chairman Miller reiterated on the call, this bill is an extraordinary and historic opportunity to address the challenges we face with both child hunger and obesity. Passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307) will:
• Improve and expand school breakfast programs to make sure all children have access to the most important meal of the day;
• Improve the nutritional quality of the 8 billion school meals serve each year;
• Allow afterschool programs to provide suppers in all 50 states, not just the current 14;
• Strengthen the summer food program to make sure no child goes hungry just because school is out for the summer.
With one in four children at risk of hunger, the price of inaction is high. Right now, we have a rare chance to make sure that children don't go hungry. If Congress doesn't pass the Child Nutrition bill during the Lame Duck session, it is likely that the the opportunity and funding to improve nutrition for our children will be gone for many years.
We need your help to get the message to Congress that the time to help feed hungry children is now. And as Chef Colicchio made clear, each of us has a responsibility to use our voice on behalf of our nation's children. You can help by:
As Secretary Vilsack put it during yesterday's Town Hall, "[Children] don't have a powerful lobby. They don't make campaign contributions, and they don't vote. But they are one hundred percent of our future." It's up to us to help them be heard.