by Brent Kendall
According to a September 30th census Bureau report, the national poverty rate for 1996 failed to decline despite overall economic growth. Sadly, the average income for the poorest one-fifth of American families actually dropped from 1995 levels. These signs hold little promise for people struggling to keep food on the table. Although the new statistics are discouraging, they have awakened some level of public interest in persisting hunger problems. Before interest fades, it is important to understand that hunger is a solvable problem. Though none of us can single-handedly feed the world, the choices we make both as voting citizens and informed consumers play an important role.
Politically speaking, we help the hungry by supporting candidates who firmly believe in the safety net, living wages and job training programs. Many Americans have been swept away by today's "self-reliance" rhetoric. Though individual responsibility is an important goal, many citizens need assistance while struggling for a stable life. Encourage government officials to support broad-based economic growth that extends beyond the parameters of corporate welfare. Trickle down theories are simply inadequate.
The enactment of the Welfare Reform Bill has impeded national efforts to feed the hungry. In response, concerned members of Congress have introduced the Hunger Has a Cure Act of 1997, which would offset substantial spending cuts to hunger and nutrition programs. The bill enjoys widespread support in the House of Representatives (Congressman David Price is among 130 cosponsors) and is pending introduction in the Senate. Let Senators Helms and Faircloth know you support this measure.
Economically speaking, we help the hungry buy acting as responsible consumers. It is vital that Americans support socially responsible businesses who pay fair wages, provide good working conditions and respect their natural surroundings. The dollar is a powerful agent for change. Thoughtful consumer spending can be as influential as any vote in a ballot box.
The world has both the natural and economic resources to end hunger. One only needs to look at total American and international defense expenditures to realize that the amount of money devoted to hunger efforts is minuscule. As nations work to build support among political leaders, corporations and citizens, remember that the battle against hunger begins in your neighborhood. I strongly encourage you to devote time and money to local efforts.
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