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During the holidays, many Kansas families will celebrate by sharing a meal together. While feasting with loved ones, we should remember that hunger is a reality faced by too many in our country. We live in the world’s wealthiest nation, yet nearly 49 million Americans struggle to put food on their tables. This year, 1 in 5 children in our country will face hunger. In Kansas alone, more than 14 percent of our neighbors are uncertain about where their next meal will come from.
The good news is that many Kansas organizations are actively working to put an end to hunger. Last year, I visited Wichita’s Cargill Cares Complex, a food bank that is helping fill the hunger gap in 86 western, central and south-central Kansas counties. Thanks to generous contributors from around the state, and with the help of thousands of volunteers, this Wichita food bank provides food for thousands of Kansans. It is the primary source of food for hundreds of hunger-relief agencies throughout rural Kansas, including soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and senior delivery programs. The food bank also partners with local schools to provide food and supplies to students who are not receiving sufficient food outside of school on a regular basis.
While hunger is a problem facing too many Americans, the pangs of hunger are felt by many more across the world – impacting nearly a billion people. I have traveled to regions of the world that suffer from severe malnutrition, such as Sudan, where more than 90 percent of the population struggles with poverty and food insecurity. We must address the immediate needs in our communities, but I believe we also have a responsibility to help put an end to hunger in developing countries through responsible investments in food aid and development.
In Congress, a bipartisan coalition of Senators committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity are working to raise awareness and address hunger issues both here at home and abroad. As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I introduced an amendment earlier this year to set aside funds for development aid programs that reduce hunger in poor, crisis-prone communities and to help people provide food for themselves and their families on a long-term basis. My amendment, which was included in the Senate-passed 2012 Farm Bill, follows the adage, “give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.”
Yet, building resiliency in at-risk countries takes time and there are immediate needs that must be met. In October, K-State and Numana, a non-profit charity headquartered in El Dorado, teamed up to host SWIPE Out Hunger, the second annual state-wide food packaging event. I had the opportunity to again join dozens of volunteers to bag more than 100,000 packages of food. The food will be sent to the Horn of Africa to assist in the famine relief efforts and will feed several hundred thousand hungry people. I was impressed by the number of volunteers who gave up their Sunday afternoon to help assemble meals for those in need across the world.
You too can make a difference. This holiday season, I encourage you to remember those who are less fortunate by donating to a hunger-relief organization, volunteering at a local soup kitchen or contributing to a local food pantry. You can also look for opportunities to help in your local community by visiting www.kansasfoodbank.org or www.harvesters.org.
This Christmas, I hope you will be mindful that it is “more blessed to give than to receive.” By working together, we can make a difference in a hungry world.