All posts by Susan Bateson

How to End Hunger by 2015

Picture a nation where all children have enough nutritious food to eat and never worry where they’ll find their next meal. They eat three solid, healthy meals a day, have a couple of snacks, and go to bed without fearing hunger. According to President Obama, who made a campaign pledge to end childhood hunger in the United States by 2015, this is the world he wants to see by six years from now.  

The Obama Administration is beginning to put some effort behind this pledge. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is holding a series of listening sessions around the country on ways to achieve the 2015 goal. One of those sessions was recently held here in Oakland, Calif.  

Groups and individuals from various sectors, including state agencies, industry and advocacy groups, and service providers showed up and shared ideas on how to end childhood hunger over the next six years. We at the Alameda County Community Food Bank were there to represent the hundreds of thousands of county residents who live with hunger – numbers that are escalating on a monthly basis.

We’ve laid out a number of recommendations that will lead our country down the right path toward ending hunger. The administration and Congress can take a number of steps:

First, we need to get the economy fully back on solid ground. Our food pantries, soup kitchens and other community agencies distribute 300,000 meals in Alameda County each week – 35 percent of them to children – and we’ve seen the numbers rise drastically over the past year. Food stamp participation is growing rapidly also. Sustained economic growth will quickly reduce the number of hungry people in our community walking in our doors each day. We’re one of the few businesses that would be thrilled to see our number of clients decline.

Next, the federal safety net programs that people depend on during times need to be further strengthened – beyond the temporary allotments included in the recent stimulus funding.

Finally, Congress currently is considering the child nutrition bill. It’s due to be renewed and contains a number of programs that low and moderate income children rely on – including the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for pregnant women and young children, school breakfast and lunch programs and the summer and afterschool nutrition programs.

The Alameda County Community Food Bank focuses a great deal of attention on increasing access to the summer feeding program when school is out. Currently, in order for a summer enrichment program to get funds to provide lunches to children in its care, it must be in an area where more than half the children receive free or reduced-price meals. If this threshold was lowered to 33 percent where it used to be, or even just to 40 percent, a significant number of additional hungry children would have access to meals during the summer months. Simple changes like this are needed to chip away at child hunger.

It’s daunting – and thrilling – to visualize moving from 12 million American children who are hungry or on the edge of hunger to none in six years. The Obama Administration is on the right track; now it’s time for all of us to unite, quickly move forward and take every step needed to reach a nation of well-fed children.

Susan Bateson is the Executive Director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank.