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Skelton says White House conference is needed to fight hunger in America
Skelton says White House conference is needed to fight hunger in America

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 26, 2009) — Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, reached an all-time high in March 2009 — one of every 10 Americans was enrolled. Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices increased by 5.5 percent in 2008, the highest annual increase since 1990. Forecasters predict even higher prices through 2009. In addition to this, we have over 35 million people in the United States who will go without food at some point during the year. Sadly, these challenges threaten to undo much of the progress we have made in fighting hunger in this country.

I firmly believe that malnutrition and hunger in the United States can be eliminated and that it will take presidential leadership to end this scourge. For this reason, I have co-sponsored H.R. 1869, a resolution that would require a White House Conference on Food and Nutrition to be held by December 31 of this year. Such a conference would serve to refocus our efforts on meeting the basic needs of our citizens while encouraging views from a variety of experts on how best to go about it.

The summit would bring together national experts in food, health, nutrition, and economic security to identify a viable solution to eliminating hunger in the United States, while also tackling root causes of malnutrition. The White House conference would also address the issues associated with the rising cost of food, increased obesity rates, and the health problems that result from malnutrition, obesity, and hunger.

Nearly 40 years ago, President Richard Nixon held the first and only White House conference to address our national nutrition policy. Since this historic summit, we have seen rampant hunger confronted in America through the establishment of and improvements in programs for needy infants and pregnant women, school meal programs, and the Food Stamp Program, as well as the food bank and food pantry systems. These programs benefit Americans in need, and they also benefit Missouri’s farmers. We have made considerable strides in reducing malnutrition in America since the first White House Nutrition Summit, but constant vigilance is required if we are to overcome the problems we face.

As we weather the consequences of a sluggish economy, we must not ignore its costs on working Americans. While H.R. 1869 has yet to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor, I am hopeful that Congress will consider this legislation soon. It would represent a significant advance against hunger here in America.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at http://www.house.gov/skelton.

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