August 5th marked the opening of the Wisconsin State Fair, an event that brings in over 800,000 visitors, and perhaps more impressively, donates 180,000 pounds of food to the Hunger Task Force, a community supported organization that has fed hungry Milwaukeeans for over thirty years.
I had the pleasure of attending the opening ceremonies to celebrate Hunger Task Force Day alongside Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. After the ceremonies, I enjoyed a tour of the fairgrounds with Farm Service Agency State Director Brad Pfaff, where we saw educational exhibits, cooking demonstrations using healthy foods you can buy on a budget, and vast displays of Wisconsin agriculture. Everywhere we turned, the fair was abuzz with hunger and nutrition education.
In the afternoon I had the unique opportunity of touring Growing Power, a national nonprofit and land trust organization that supplies people from diverse backgrounds with equal access to healthy, high-quality and affordable food. Chief Executive Officer Will Allen began his career as a professional basketball player but eventually changed his focus and opened this complex of teaching farms. Growing Power raises vegetables, fish, livestock, and honeybees year-round using cheap, replicable, innovative techniques that staffers develop themselves.
President Obama continues to focus on restoring the American economy and has taken a strong stance on hunger and nutrition issues – unprecedented for any administration. Our fifteen programs are our first line of defense against hunger, and they reach an amazing 1 in 4 Americans each year. SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) assists over 40 million people each month, our National School Lunch Program benefits nearly 32 million students every school day, and the Healthy Food Financing Initiative would provide a potential $400 million to “food deserts” throughout urban and rural America. Even with these monumental programs, there are still many people who are eligible to participate in our programs and don’t, and they often go hungry as a result.
All sectors – government, business, and nonprofit organizations – must work together if we are to solve the issues surrounding childhood hunger and obesity. While we provide leadership, guidance and resources, our nutrition programs are only as effective as our partners and citizens in local communities make them. Even with the strong support of organizations like Growing Power and the Hunger Task Force, there is still much work to be done. I encourage you to become involved in doing your part to support organizations like these and ensure that no one in your community, states or country goes hungry.