01/12/2012 05:29 pm ET Updated Mar 13, 2012

Starting the Right Conversations About Hunger

There are hungry people in every congressional district in the nation. Every single one.

So why is it so hard to get a conversation started about how nearly 49 million people don't have enough to eat? Why is it so difficult to get our political leaders to understand that when they talk about cutting federal assistance programs, they are talking about hurting people in their own communities and across the country. With election season approaching, I would like to hear more from our leaders about how they are going to help all Americans through the rough economy, especially those among us who are just barely scraping by.

American families are struggling, and their needs must have a place in our legislation and our budget dialogues. But sadly, they are too many times, pushed aside. They are demoralized and even criminalized for not earning enough money to cover the cost of living in this country.

That rhetoric only serves to make more divisions among us as a nation at the very time when we should be united. The problem of hunger is too big and the suffering of our friends and neighbors too great for us not to stand as one.

That's why I am honored to take part in the "Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity" roundtable discussion, hosted by Tavis Smiley at George Washington University, in Washington, DC. The panel will include thought-leaders like Princeton University professor Dr. Cornel West, personal finance expert Suze Orman, filmmaker Michael Moore, author Barbara Ehrenriech, urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter, economist Jeffrey Sachs. Together we will be discussing solutions to the growing problem of poverty in America and how the face of poverty is changing.

I encourage the public to tune into what will be a thoughtful -- and respectful -- conversation about how we must work together to build our nation's future. The event will be air live on C-SPAN and then rebroadcasted on Tavis Smiley on PBS from January 16 to January 18.

It is high time that we end the vitriolic debate that continues to spread across our country, dividing us on the most basic issues of human need. Everyone among us has an opportunity and a responsibility to contribute to a bright future for America and that means making sure that everyone has enough to eat. Our nation's prosperity depends on it.