As we gather with family, friends and loved ones over the holiday season, we often find ourselves feeling both thankful for our blessings and wanting to help others less fortunate. Since much of our traditional celebrating during this time of the year revolves around gathering for meals, the desire to help those in need of a meal is on the forefront of our minds.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released its annual report on household food security which shows that the vast majority of American households had consistent, dependable access to enough food for each family member to lead an active, healthy life.
The USDA report shows promising trends. The number of people struggling with hunger declined to its lowest level in a decade; reliance on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dropped to its lowest level since July 2010; and, as a credit to the work of many dedicated Arkansans, our state was among those that made the biggest strides in combating hunger.
However, any number short of one hundred percent food secure households means that we still have work to do.
According to the USDA report, 12.3 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during 2016, including 4.9 percent with very low food security. USDA defines food insecure household as those where “the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for obtaining food.”
As a co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, a bipartisan coalition committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity, I am working with my colleagues—as well as public and private organizations—to build on the progress we have made on this issue both at home and abroad.
Hunger knows no borders. As a nation, we can be proud of the leading role the U.S. takes in coordinating relief with non-governmental organizations and our international partners like the World Food Program (WFP) to help those in dire need of food.
WFP, the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivers food assistance in emergencies and works with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience with the goal of ending hunger worldwide by 2030.
Along with helping those in emergency need after a natural disaster, the organization—under the dedicated leadership of David Beasley—is doing yeoman’s work in conflict zones where food is often used as a weapon between warring factions. WFP is on the ground in places like South Sudan and Yemen—some of the most dangerous corners of the world—where there are famine or near-famine conditions as the result of civil war. These man-made crises desperately require humanitarian relief.
While solving hunger issues abroad and at home are two distinctly different challenges, the solution does share at least one thing in common. An effective approach channels the dedication and compassion of doers, not takers.
That is why it is important that we all do our part to build on the positive strides that have been made. Washington can’t solve this problem by itself. It will take a concerted effort in our states, cities and communities. There is a part for us all to play in this fight against hunger. This holiday season is a good time to reflect on how each of us can help.