To the Editor:
“We can do this!” Those words were spoken by President Biden at a recent White House conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, the first such conference in over 50 years.
At issue is the rise in hunger and poverty in the United States and the declining health care services available to the poor and vulnerable among us.
Following a decline in hunger and poverty rates in the U.S. during 2021, primarily due to various COVID-related initiatives, those numbers are again on the rise.
Because of the failure by Congress to extend the Child Income Tax Credit and renew several nutrition programs, over 40 million Americans now live in food-deficient households. Over 15 million of those are children.
Poverty rates are again on the rise, with more people living below the poverty level than prior to the pandemic. Add to that the high price of food and other necessities, along with rising inflation generally, and more people are likely to fall below the poverty level as time goes on.
Among the over 250 participants in the conference, many represented agencies providing assistance and groups advocating for more favorable legislation.
Food pantries are not going to solve the problem. Action by Congress is imperative.
The president also announced that a large number of food industry companies have made commitments to assist in the goal of eliminating hunger in the U.S. by 2030. This kind of public-private partnership is new and represents an innovative approach.
Can we meet that ambitious goal? I believe we can. Sixty years ago, President John F. Kennedy put the challenge before us to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade. We did it.
Now, I believe, the time has come to address another ambitious challenge: eradicating hunger and poverty as we know it, so that all may share the bounties of what this nation produces and often takes for granted.
It will allow many of us to live with dignity. “We can do this!”
Roger V. Asplund