11/25/2010 12:02 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts About People Struggling with Hunger

The holiday season is a time of hope, a time of compassion and a time to be thankful. The Feeding America network is especially thankful for the individuals, grassroots groups and business organizations that give of their time and resources daily to make it possible for us to keep up the escalating fight to irradiate hunger among Americans in our lifetime. It is your hard work, commitment and generosity that enable Feeding America to help feed millions of people across the country. Without you, our task would be insurmountable.

The heart of the work in our collective effort to end hunger begins in each of your communities, through the dedication and targeted focus of food banks, pantries and soup kitchens. You help us at the national level to extend a familiar, human touch to reach the child, family or other individual who has fallen upon uncertain times and may be reluctant to seek assistance from an unknown source. To date, I have visited more than 170 of our food banks where the impact of volunteers' and workers' familiar faces, warm smiles and extended hands is evident and effective to meet the urgent need we face to feed those in need -- some for the first time in their lives. It humbles and inspires me, particularly, during this time of year to see so many giving selflessly of their precious family time off from work to extend a hand to a child, man or woman who's present circumstance has left them in fear of where their next nutritious meal will come from. And, the bountiful coordination of food drives across our great nation are a testament to our collective human spirit, guided by unyielding compassion and dedication.

During a recent trip I made to a school hoping to participate in the Kids Cafe and BackPack programs, I met Max. Max is an 8-year-old boy who walked into the principal's office with a bag of toys. The principal later informed me that Max's mother had just lost her job, and he wanted to know if he could sell his toys to help his family.

As I make my way through the holiday season, Max and his situation will act as a constant reminder as to why our work is so important. I am grateful that the Feeding America network is able to feed 37 million people including 14 million children, and while that does not solve the solution, it is does put food on the table for families who didn't necessarily know where they would find their next meal.

Hunger should not be here in America, nor should a child ever go hungry, but it will be evident on Thanksgiving day across the country and every day thereafter unless we continue to rally strong. It is time for our country to seize the opportunity to end child hunger by making child nutrition re-authorization a top priority. Congress must quickly fund and pass a stronger child nutrition bill so that all of America's children have the healthy start they deserve.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I ask that you take note of the neighbor down the street, or a former co-worker who got laid off, or a member of your place of worship. You just don't know -- they may be in need of food, and if they are -- it is my hope that they know there is a food bank, pantry or soup kitchen nearby that can nourish them. Or, perhaps you could extend a helping hand.