Weekly Columns

National Hunger Awareness Day- Feeding Arkansas

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of June 13, 2011

Jun 13 2011

What do you do when you’re hungry? If you’re like me you go to the refrigerator or the kitchen cabinet and if you’re running low on food you go to the grocery story. Now imagine if a quick trip to the market isn’t an option.

In the United States, more than 41 million Americans worry about where their next meal will come from. In Arkansas, more than 17 percent of the entire population lives below the poverty line and goes to sleep hungry on a regular basis. The most recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that Arkansas has the lowest food security and at has the worst rate of childhood hunger in the nation with nearly 25 percent of Arkansas kids going to bed hungry.

As a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity, we’re working to raise awareness and resources to address hunger issues both here at home and around the world. Along with the other senate co-chairs Senators Dick Lugar (R-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), we’re working to identify a range of legislative improvements or reforms that can be made in federal policy related to hunger.

Help from programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the Child Nutrition programs provide millions of Americans with assistance, but more can be done. While I believe the government can play an influential role in helping people who suffer from hunger, it can’t solve this problem by itself.

That is why I cosponsored and supported a Senate resolution that recognizes June 7, 2011 as National Hunger Awareness Day. The resolution calls on citizens to recognize National Hunger Awareness Day by volunteering, donating food and supporting organizations that reduce food insecurity.

I believe that hunger is a solvable problem, but it requires community involvement. Individuals and the private sector will really make the difference in this battle. Last year, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation announced a $2 billion commitment to fight domestic hunger. Wal-Mart estimates that food banks in Arkansas will receive nearly 27.5 million meals, or 35.2 million pounds of food by 2015.

In addition, local hunger-relief organizations are helping to meet this critical need. Our current economic environment isn’t making this easy. As unemployment in our state hovers around eight percent, families, who in the past may have donated to their local food bank, now find themselves the beneficiaries of such organizations.  In 2010, the Arkansas Foodbank which serves central and southern Arkansas distributed more than 13.3 million pounds of food which is an increase of two million pounds from 2009.

Our state is a leader in agriculture, yet our citizens are undernourished. The fundamental causes of hunger and food insecurity, such as poverty, must be addressed as well, with a focus on personal responsibility, socio-economic empowerment, education, hard work, and financial literacy. I also believe the most important priority of hunger-relief programs should be helping people become self-sufficient.

I am committed to working with my colleagues, existing federal programs and agencies, and most importantly, our local hunger relief networks to fight hunger in Arkansas, the United States, and throughout the world.  With small individual efforts we can, and will, make a big difference in the lives of many.