01/17/2011 01:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hunger In America: Martin Luther King Calls Us To Act

Today we pause to reflect and remember the legacy and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the 82nd anniversary of his birth.

Dr. King once said, in a challenge to our nation, "Why should there be hunger and deprivation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life? There is no deficit in human resources. The deficit is in human will."

Many years have passed since the death of Dr. King, and it is sad and sobering to ponder the terrible fact that hunger continues to permeate every community in our nation. Perhaps our nation does not yet have the collective will that Dr. King described, but I believe that we are moving in the right direction. Perhaps slowly, but surely, we are moving in the right direction.

There is much bad news when we look at the current state of hunger in America. More than 50 million American are food insecure, including 10 million children under the age of six. We know that a child who is hungry cannot learn, and is in danger of becoming an adult who cannot learn.

Our economy continues to be troubled, and record numbers of Americans are out of work. Our state and federal governments face enormous budget shortfalls and many people fear that programs that help feed the nation's hungry may be facing cuts.

But there is good news that should be embraced and celebrated. It is why I believe that we are moving closer to having the will, as a nation, to end hunger.

Feeding America's Hunger in America 2010 study concluded that more than 700,000 Americans annually volunteer at a food bank, food pantry, soup kitchen or shelter. They contribute more than 7 million hours of time to helping feed their neighbor. That's good news indeed.

Feeding America and other anti-hunger groups worked closely with Congress to ensure the passage of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill last month, which will ensure that millions of at-risk children will receive more nutritious food at school and through other government feeding programs. In the past two years, Congress has approved numerous other pieces of legislation that have improved the Food Stamp (SNAP) program and dramatically increased the amount of fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and other agricultural products that are donated by the USDA to food banks. More good news.

Corporate America, the agricultural industry and food producers and manufacturers have also stepped forward with record-breaking donations of food and funds to Feeding America that has helped us rise to the challenge of providing food and groceries to so many new people in the past few years. Further good news.

And then there is Emma Gottschalk of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She set up a website to raise funds for Feeding America during the recent holiday season. She raised $725, which was $25 dollars above her goal. Her contribution will help us provide more than 5,000 meals to hungry Americans. Emma Gottschalk is eight years old. And this is the third year she has raised money to fight hunger. So perhaps Emma's story is the best news of all.

Our will to end hunger as a nation may not yet be galvanized, but we are getting there. As Dr. King said, "There is no deficit in human resources." So, like Emma, let's all develop the will to do our part to build a stronger, hunger-free America.

You can watch a video of Emma's efforts.