(House of Representatives - April 25, 2013)

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[Page H2302]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Massachusetts (Mr. McGovern) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to talk about the national 
shame of child hunger in America. I wish it didn't exist, but we can't 
ignore the fact that there are more than 16 million kids in America who 
are food insecure. Quite simply, that means more than 16 million 
children went hungry in 2011. That's unconscionable and that is 
  Hunger has no place in the richest, most prosperous nation on Earth. 
Letting anyone in this country go without food is bad enough, but 
letting children go hungry is more than heartbreaking; it's just plain 
wrong. Yet we let it happen every day in America--16 million children, 
Mr. Speaker. That means one in five kids in America go to bed hungry 
and wake up hungry at some point in their lives during the year. That 
means one in five kids don't know when their next meal is coming.
  We are allowing more than 16 million kids to wake up hungry, go to 
school hungry, and go to sleep hungry. We are allowing more than 16 
million kids to be deprived of proper nutrition, the nutrition 
contained in good, healthy food that helps children's minds and bodies 
properly develop. We are allowing more than 16 million kids to struggle 
at school and have problems with learning simply because they suffer 
from hunger.
  Child hunger has many impacts. Kids who don't eat enough good, 
healthy food will not develop properly. They have more health problems 
and require more costly health care than children who don't have to 
worry about hunger. Sometimes the lack of food results in developmental 
problems and learning disabilities. Other times, hunger simply doesn't 
allow kids to concentrate. These problems can lead to under-education, 
which can have long-term effects, including a lifetime of low-paying 
jobs and even unemployment.
  America has several antihunger safety net programs to deal with 
hunger. Some of these programs are specifically designed for children. 
SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is the biggest antihunger program 
in the Federal Government. It does a good job, but there are still many 
ways that it can be improved.
  Over many years, we have also created the National School Breakfast 
Program and the National School Lunch Program; and in order to meet 
increased demand, we now have after school snack and meal programs. But 
these programs are inadequate in many ways. The breakfast and lunch 
programs provide either a free or a reduced price meal. The free meal 
is available to those kids whose families are quite poor; but the 
reduced price meals are available to kids of families who are poor, but 
not poor enough to qualify for the free plan. This means there are 
days, and even weeks, when a child's family simply may not have enough 
money to pay for the reduced price meal. That's a serious problem.
  Another problem is that breakfasts are typically served before school 
starts, meaning that poor kids have to get themselves to school early 
just to get a good meal. This can create a stigma where these kids get 
teased and bullied because they're poor, but it can also result in a 
pattern where these children don't have regular access to a school 
breakfast if their parents can't get them to school on time or if the 
school buses don't deliver them early enough to be able to benefit from 
this breakfast. Organizations like the EOS Foundation in Massachusetts 
and States like West Virginia are working to fix this by promoting 
Breakfast at the Bell programs, a solution I strongly support.
  And then there are weekends, where schools aren't open. Food banks, 
churches, synagogues, mosques, and other antihunger organizations are 
filling that gap with food backpacks that are given out on Friday 

                              {time}  1010

  Mr. Speaker, as a candidate, then-Senator Obama pledged to end 
childhood hunger by 2015. It was a good idea then, and it's a good idea 
now. We worked hard, and many of us pushed for a comprehensive 
childhood hunger plan. We even wore those buttons to show our support.
  Mr. Speaker, 2015 is only 2 years away. There is no way we are going 
to meet that goal, but it doesn't mean we should give up. Now is the 
time to redouble our efforts. Now is the time to make the pledge to end 
hunger now. And that's not just a clever tag line. No, Mr. Speaker, we 
can end hunger now if we start with the commitment to develop a 
comprehensive plan to do so.
  That's why I continue to call for Presidential leadership on this 
serious matter. We need a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition 
to develop a comprehensive plan that will address all aspects of hunger 
in America, especially child hunger. We need this conference to bring 
all the stakeholders, like the Eos Foundation, the Governor, and other 
political leaders from West Virginia and other States and other 
organizations that are not typically in the antihunger movement. We 
need faith-based leaders, CEOs, leaders of food banks, pediatricians, 
schools, and nutritionists together in one room to develop a 
comprehensive plan, take assignments and make it work. If we do this, 
we can end hunger now.
  Mr. Speaker, hunger is a political condition. We have everything we 
need to end it. We lack the political will.
  I urge my colleagues to make this issue a priority. End hunger now.