The last time that a president of the United States convened a Commission on Hunger was in September of 1978, when the late singer, Grammy Award winning songwriter, and Long Island hunger activist Harry Chapin successfully lobbied former President Jimmy Carter to convene such a group to which Chapin was appointed to and was the only member to attend 100% of their meetings. Chapin also used the next two-years from 1978 to 1980 to establish Long Island Cares, Inc. our region’s very first food bank that has been on the front lines in responding to a projected 63% increase in food insecurity brought about by unemployment, furloughs and illness as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From March 13, 2020 till April 4, 2021, Long Island Cares, Inc.-The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank has delivered nearly 19 million pounds of emergency food or more than 15 million meals to assist 192,542 Long Islanders struggling with food insecurity and have visited the regional food bank for the very first time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One way the United States can respond to increases in food insecurity is through a comprehensive approach towards reducing food insecurity across the country, and that is why Long Island Cares and the Chapin Foundation have called upon the Biden-Harris administration to propose that the new President and Vice President convene a new Presidential Commission on Hunger and Food Insecurity in the United States sometime by 2023.
This year, Long Island Cares will commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Harry Chapin’s passing on July 16, 2021. It’s been more than four decades since Harry served on President Carter’s Presidential Commission on Hunger and the U.S. needs to take a serious look at why more than 50 million Americans are struggling to put nutritious food on their tables. When Harry founded Long Island Cares in 1980, he wanted the organization to focus on the many root causes of hunger, as well as what programs and policies could improve self-sufficiency for individuals and families in need.
Among the focuses of a new Commission would be to review existing authorities and programs, public and private, national and international, which address the problems of food insecurity, and to assess the extent to which these programs are meeting their objectives. The Commission could also develop recommendations to significantly reduce food insecurity and develop options to harness available resources including, a review of current policies that are effective in lifting people out of poverty. A new Commission can conduct public hearings, issue reports and develop new projects for our nation to better understand why food insecurity is on the rise across all fifty states.
I believe that President Biden and Vice President Harris are aware of the increases in food insecurity across our nation, and I know that both of them are familiar with the work of our food banks and food pantries in responding to their communities in need. I’m optimistic that during their first-term in office they will assign a White House staff person to follow-up with us on the proposal.
Paule T. Pachter is chief executive offficer of Long Island Cares, Inc.-The Harry Chapin Regional Food Bank