Over the past several weeks there has been constant discussion around the Farm Bill and much posturing around slashing the food stamp program. There are those who want significant cuts, those who want reform, and those who don't want to touch the current provisions for America's disadvantaged population. With 50 million food insecure Americans, including one in six children, it's astounding that the wealthiest nation in the world has not been able to find a practical solution to the hunger epidemic.
Access to nutritional food has become a serious problem for our nation, but especially among America's youth. The most recent statistics show that 16.7 million children live in food insecure households. For many children, the surest meal they'll receive is through the National School Lunch Program.
Incredibly, other than debate surrounding the Farm Bill and the incredible work being done by nonprofits and volunteers, conversation around food insecurity in the U.S. is virtually non-existent. Furthermore, in the last presidential election, this issue did not receive any time on the platform as it should have. In a nation where 31 million tons of food -- or 40 percent of food that is produced in America -- ended up in landfills last year according the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, our Congressional leaders must begin placing food insecurity at the top of the nation's priorities and discussing viable solutions.
While the statistics in the U.S. are staggering, the numbers abroad are dramatically worse. In developing countries, nearly 40,000 children die daily from malnutrition, starvation, and hunger-related diseases. Can the devastation abroad and at home be helped by the average individual? Can efforts to feed the world's hungry children become a reality? The answer is YES!
Two weeks ago, my wife, Kathy Hamilton, and I were honored as the 5,000th Daily Point of Light recipients by President Obama and President George H. W. Bush for our work combating the hunger epidemic in the U.S. and in East Africa. Nearly a decade ago during a trip to Tanzania, as we were about to enter retirement, we saw firsthand the devastation that hunger had inflicted. To address it, we asked our own small community in Iowa, and people across America, to help us package meals that could be sent to the children in Tanzania. As we focused on aiding the hungry children of East Africa, we became aware of the food insecurity here at home.
Since then, we have helped facilitate the packaging of over 232 million meals for hungry children across America and in Africa. What we've discovered through our work is that there is something practical that everyone can do to help. It also quickly became apparent that individuals nationwide truly enjoy helping and donating their time to work at food packaging events. Our packaging events, hosted by community volunteers, are designed to benefit the local food banks, charities, and organizations that help U.S. children locally and missions around the world. It's a win-win for everyone, young and old, and it's easy, simple, and a fun system that works. And once someone has participated in a packaging event they want to do it again and again, because it is fun.
Not only are we working to feed children, but in East Africa we are also helping communities sustain themselves. Our mission teams work with individuals and villages on water systems, medical training, medical equipment, environmental projects, children's feeding centers, and have assisted in the formation and opening of a secondary school for over 700 children. For us, the old saying "give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime," is a principle that guides us in all of our work from relief to development.
If my wife and I -- a couple from a small town in Iowa who planned to retire -- can make a difference, then you can too. Instead of saying "we can," say "I will," and the difference will be amazing and will change the world.
We are a nation of vast wealth and resources, but sadly, Congress only seems to posture on the issue of hunger. But much more can, and will, be done by concerned American citizens and nonprofits dedicated to lowering the number of those who go to bed at night hungry. I challenge you to join this fight and find a way to get involved. Talk to your church, your community government, friends, colleagues, local food bank, etc. There are many resources, our organization, Outreach, Inc. included, that can provide guidance and assistance. Ask what the need is and take action. Just do something yourself, do not wait on "others!" The actions you take today can change the course of the future for millions and you will make a difference!
About Floyd Hammer:
Floyd Hammer and his wife Kathy Hamilton founded Outreach, inc. a leading national charity working to provide safe water, food, medical care and education to children and those in need both at home and abroad. Outreach has provided ingredients or packaged more than 232 million meals that have been distributed across the United States and in East Africa. Visit www.outreachprogram.org to learn how you can get involved in attacking the hunger epidemic in the U.S. and abroad.