In the presidents cabinet – putting the most vulnerable and voiceless first

Last Thursday we hosted a breakfast at NY’s Regency Hotel in which Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack met with about 80 opinion leaders from business and philanthropic circles to share his perspective on the connection between childhood hunger and education, and to help Share Our Strength lay the foundation for bringing our No Kid Hungry campaign to New York City. As has been the case each time I’ve been with him, I came away with even greater respect and admiration.

Vilsack made the economic competitiveness, education, and national security arguments for ensuring that our kids are not hungry, as well as making the moral case. He argued that in today’s interconnected global economy, our kids are no longer competing with classmates in their school or in nearby schools but against all children everywhere.

He also emphasized that of the 42 million Americans receiving SNAP benefits, only 10% were getting cash welfare assistance, meaning that 90% were working Americans. He warned that unless this was better understood, these Americans would be stereotyped and stigmatized, unfairly as they have in the past.

Several times Vilsack used the word “outrageous” to describe the failure of communities to ensure that more kids were being enrolled in programs for which they were eligible. In a job that is usually associated with Agri-business, policy pronouncements and regulatory strategies, Secretary Vilsack has never forgotten that there are kids in our country who are left out and left behind and that we must find a way to ensure their well being regardless of current political and economic conditions. Not all of our colleagues in the anti-hunger community stood by this good man when he asked for help supporting the Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill. Last week made me even more proud that we at Share Our Strength never wavered.


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