Ending Hunger in America, 2014 Hunger Report Introduction - Page 23

THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS IN COMBATTING DOMESTIC HUNGER Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia - 10th District I have met with local food banks and pantries in my congressional district on a regular basis for the past several years and they all tell me that demand for the service they provide is at record highs. This is true across the country.  In the world’s wealthiest nation, roughly 49 million Americans, or one in six, struggle to put enough food on the table at some point during the year. Twenty-five million depend on food banks and other charities. This is especially striking given that in America there’s no scarcity of food. The federal government presently provides roughly 96 percent of the money spent on food assistance whereas private charity provides a mere 4 percent. This is both unacceptable and unsustainable given our current fiscal woes as a nation.   We must take common sense steps to address this phenomenon. A couple of years ago, after meeting with my district food banks, I learned local schools were throwing out excess food because they had received misguided advice that they could be sued if their donated food made someone sick. So in 2011, I sponsored legislation, which passed into law, clarifying once and for all that schools are covered under the federal Good Samaritan Act and explicitly permitted to donate excess food without fear of liability. This relatively simple fix had no cost to taxpayers and made a positive impact on fighting hunger in communities. The private sector must be empowered and encouraged to join in the battle against domestic hunger. Yes, it is important for government to provide a safety net for those who fall on hard times. But in the face of exploding national debts and deficits and further cuts to domestic discretionary spending, including food stamps, all but inevitable, it is time for any American who is committed to combatting domestic hunger to consider complimentary public-private partnership initiatives to buttress federal government assistance. What if every company, Rotary, Kiwanis Club, PTA, law firm and school were to twice a year—and not just at Thanksgiving and Christmas—hold a food drive to restock and replenish the empty shelves of our nation’s food pantries and raise awareness about the hungry in our midst? What if farmers were to set aside an acre of their land for the local Scout group to cultivate and then donate their bounty to the area food bank?  32?Introduction n Bread for the World Institute Office of Rep. Frank R. Wolf Congressman Frank Wolf (in the red tie) helping Feds Feed Families, a national canned food drive conducted by federal employees. What if government were to incentivize farmers to set aside land for the purpose of gleaning? What if this agricultural contribution to the public good qualified as a charitable gift? What if every governor had someone on staff dedicated to tackling hunger in their state?  What if this person was tasked with reaching out to every restaurant owner, public school, farmer and food bank in the state with the aim of connecting those with more than enough to those with not nearly enough? The needs are seemingly insurmountable but so too are the possibilities. Surely we can all agree that domestic hunger is unacceptable and that in this land of plenty, even during a time of relative austerity, none should be left wanting. Republican Congressman Frank R. Wolf represents the 10th District of Virginia. He has served in Congress since 1981.