Thursday, July 01, 2010

Church leaders meet with Secretary of Agriculture on childhood hunger.

For all its wealth, our country still has children going hungry. And we can do something about it.

That was the take-home message from a June 15 meeting with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, held by 20 Christian leaders and hunger advocates including Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships.

Meeting with the group around a table symbolically spread with five loaves of bread and two fish, secretary Vilsack said he sees the biblical story of the feeding of the multitude as a miracle of overcoming the fear of sharing.

The numbers on childhood hunger are alarming: nearly one in four children in the United States lives in a family that struggles to put food on the table. The quickest and most direct way to help them is through federal nutrition programs.

Right now, Congress is debating and renewing an important group of nutrition programs aimed specifically at children. The child nutrition reauthorization legislation to be passed this year includes school lunch and breakfast, summer food, and WIC (the Women, Infants, and Children program).

Bread for the World president David Beckmann said that secretary Vilsack "made a strong plea for churches to provide more leadership on policy issues that affect hungry people, notably supporting the president’s proposed $1 billion increase in annual funding for child nutrition programs."

The administration’s request would help more eligible children to gain access to these programs--and, of course, to the food they need. As secretary Vilsack emphasized, the most pressing need is for better access to meals in the summer; for every 100 children who eat free or reduced-price school lunches, only 11 receive lunch during the summer.

The church leaders concluded the meeting with a prayer for the secretary, the USDA child nutrition programs, Congress, and the hungry children who await their action.

"It was very powerful to have a Cabinet secretary encourage grassroots advocacy on hunger," said Max Finberg, director of USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. "I think the church leaders who came to the meeting were encouraged, and also challenged to do more."

For more information on childhood hunger in the US and how you can support policies and programs to help hungry children, visit For more about the hunger relief work of the Church of the Brethren, go to

(Bread for the World provided this report.)

Source: 7/1/2010 Newsline

No comments: