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James M.
Democrat MA 2

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  • Hunger in America

    by Representative James P. McGovern

    Posted on 2013-11-14

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    McGOVERN. Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, I had the privilege of joining Monte Belmonte, who is a radio host at WRSI in Northampton, Massachusetts, on a 26-mile walk to raise awareness about the issue of hunger and to raise money for the Western Massachusetts Food Bank. It was an incredible experience. My legs are sore, but it was inspiring to be part of that march.

    For the entire 26 miles we were joined by a diverse group of people, people like Bill Stapleton, who is the president of the Northampton Cooperative Bank; Andrew Morehouse, who is the director of the Western Massachusetts Food Bank. We were joined by Dan Finn of Pioneer Valley Local First and a fellow named Sean Berry, who runs Four Season Liquor Store in Hadley.

    Along the way, various people joined us for part of the march. We met with school groups along the way. We even marched along with a group called Mutton and Mead, who put on a medieval festival every year in western Massachusetts.

    And as we marched, people would stop their cars to offer their support and offer some money; but they would also tell us stories about people they knew who are hungry in our community. Young kids in schools, some of them who marched with us, told us stories about how they had seen firsthand hunger. Some of them raised money to support the march.

    We also stopped at a place called the Amherst Survival Center. It is a food pantry, a place for low-income people to get clothes, sometimes medical advice, sometimes counseling. And when we stopped there, the director handed me a bunch of plates, paper plates, where people who go to the Amherst Survival Center, and some people who work there, wanted to send a message to me and to Congress.

    I want to read some of these plates. This one says: Try going hungry. Hunger hurts. The pantry provides.

    This one is: I read the news about SNAP and I am afraid my family will go to bed hungry. How is this possible? Another person wrote: I think everyone has a right to healthy food, which is why the pantry is so important.

    Linda wrote: Dear Congress, please help us who need the help. I didn't think I would ever be like this.

    This person wrote: No SNAP, no food.

    This person wrote: I work and I am seeking more work. My husband works. It is not enough.

    ``Dear Congress, access to affordable food is a basic human right,'' signed by Shelley.

    ``What's for dinner? Nothing without the pantry,'' wrote Emily.

    Working in the pantry has opened my eyes to see all the wonderful people struggling in the community.

    Dear Congress, we need your help. Blessings.

    Food stamps help American agriculture.

    Hunger and homelessness in America? I could go on and on and read some of these plates, and the reason why I am doing this is because we are so inundated with facts and figures and statistics that somehow I think we have lost our ability to feel them.

    These are real people. These are real people who are struggling, real people who are working with struggling families. They deserve a voice. And one of the things that people are concerned about is Congress making their lives worse.

    We are considering a farm bill; and in the House version of the farm bill, there is a $40 billion cut in SNAP--3.8 million people would lose their benefits. Hundreds of thousands of kids would no longer have access to free breakfast and lunch at school; 170,000 veterans would lose their benefits.

    Mr. Speaker, we can do so much better. One of the things we are here for is to help the people like those who go to the Amherst Survival Center. One of the things that we are here for is to respond to the concerns that we heard along the way as I marched with Monte Belmonte and his crew.

    You know, it is nice that this march was a success and they raised a lot of money for the Western Massachusetts Food Bank, but it is not enough. These food banks and these food pantries are at capacity. We can't make things worse.

    Surely in the richest country in the history of the world we can do better. We can end hunger.

    So, Mr. Speaker, I would urge all my colleagues, as we start to consider the farm bill, please do not support a farm bill that makes more people hungry. Let's do the right thing. This is a problem that we can solve.

    Again, I want to thank Monte Belmonte and all the people at WRSI and Northampton for their compassion, for their activism, for helping people in need; but we need to be inspired by people like those who marched with me [[Page H7058]] from Northampton to Greenfield, and we need to do the right thing.


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