Weekly Columns

Helping the Hungry This Holiday Season

Senator John Boozman's Column for the Week of December 12, 2011

Dec 13 2011

If you are anything like me, you probably helped yourself to more than one serving this past Thanksgiving.  In fact, I am quite sure that one meal will have a lasting effect on my waistline. 

All kidding aside, I have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. As I am sure you do as well.  And as we celebrate these blessings with our families and loved ones, we should also remember that we are blessed to be in a position where we can enjoy the fellowship over a great meal.  For some Arkansans, unfortunately, this is not the case.  In fact, for these individuals and families, avoiding going to sleep hungry is a daily struggle.

Right around Thanksgiving, CNN ran an insightful piece on hunger in America.  They interviewed Ken Kupchick, marketing director for the River Valley Regional Food Bank in Fort Smith, who told them some heart-wrenching stories that his organization has encountered in Arkansas’s second largest city.  Ken spoke of a mother who used to volunteer at a food pantry and is now in need of the organization’s services due to mounting medical bills for her children.  He recounted a story of an elderly lady who went from financial security to sorting through the dumpster garbage at the local grocery store after her husband passed away and her monthly income disappeared.

The hunger crisis is not just something that is happening in countries most of us will never set foot in.  Yes, we see those images on the nightly news, but the reality is we don’t have to go far to see that hunger exists here. 

According to recent studies, hunger is a struggle for one in six Americans and many of those suffering from food insecurities are children.  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.  The difficult economic times our country is facing only serves to exasperate the situation for these Americans.

The positive news is that each of us can help put an end to it. 

In Congress, a bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity are working to raise awareness and resources to address hunger issues both here at home and around the world.  As co-chair of the Hunger Caucus, I am a proud supporter of our latest initiative—the “Hour for Hunger”—which encourages Members of Congress to commit one hour of their time during the holidays to help raise awareness and put an end to hunger in their communities.

Washington alone cannot cure our nation’s hunger problems.  It will take a concerted effort in our states, cities and communities.  There is a part for us all to play in fight.  Please consider making a donation to a hunger-relief organization, like a centralized food bank, or a food pantry at your church this holiday season.