People First Plan to End Hunger in America
Over 37 million Americans — as many people as live in California, our most populous state — are at risk of going hungry. Food insecurity is not only a symptom of poverty and inequality, but a reflection of our national priority. Throughout this presidential campaign, I have consistently and constantly elevated the challenges of the most vulnerable people and the most underserved communities. We need to fight for the poor, the homeless, the sick, the incarcerated, the undocumented, the forgotten, and yes, the hungry.
Everyone counts in this country, and it’s about time our public policies reflected that fundamental truth.
Today, one in seven children, about the population of Ohio, suffer from hunger. More than 5 million seniors, approximately the metro area of Atlanta, are uncertain about their next meal. Rural counties are disproportionately affected, comprising 79 percent of the counties with the highest food insecurity rates, but only comprise 63 percent of all counties. African American households are more than twice as likely to face hunger than white households, and Latinos are 50 percent more at risk. People are working full-time jobs, sometimes multiple jobs, and are still unable to make ends meet.
As a child, I saw the grocery list get shorter and shorter as our family budget got tighter and tighter. At the end of the month, my mom would struggle to afford the rent, pay the bills, and make sure the lights stayed on and the water did not shut off. She raised my brother and I as a single parent, and we lived with my grandmother who raised my mom as a single parent too. I still vividly remember my mom’s panic when her hair started falling out due to the stress of putting food on the table. But thank God we had each other, the support of our community, strong federal programs like Medicare and Pell Grants, and an unwavering faith that a better future is possible.
Hunger is a complex problem, intertwined with inequities of race, class, gender, and geography, and we will only overcome this challenge with a concerted national effort.
And that’s what I will lead as president. We cannot move forward as one nation if only a few are prosperous and fed while many are poor and hungry. That’s why I’m proposing an ambitious People First plan to End Hunger in America. If we invest in stronger federal nourishment programs, I believe that this generation can defeat malnutrition and achieve freedom from hunger.
As a nation, we have a moral obligation to ensure that every child has the nourishment to learn and the basic necessities to thrive.
Today students are being shamed when they cannot afford to eat.
Our kids are receiving school lunch debt instead of a hot meal, and often face hunger while in college. As president, we will end “lunch shaming” by making meals free for every public school student, cancel all school lunch debt, and ensure college students are eligible for SNAP benefits. Too many children also go hungry during the summer, and I’m proposing that we extend at least $60 per child on EBT cards for every month out of school. We will also reinstate Obama Administration rules to establish national nutrition standards so that all of our children’s school meals are healthy. Building on the progress of the Obama Administration, I will designate a National Nutrition Advisor to coordinate federal, state and local, private, and non-profit action to end hunger in America.
In his first State of the Union address, the last Texan Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty and soon after signed legislation creating a national food assistance program. Since then, millions of Americans have avoided the pain of hunger, and I’m proposing that we strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). First, SNAP benefits are insufficient. They do not cover the cost of a meal in 99 percent of the United States. We need to increase support by at least 30 percent to close the gap. Second, we will expand eligibility by banning unjustified work requirements imposed during the 1990s under a conservative agenda. During the 2009 recession, every $1 increase in SNAP benefit generated about $1.70 in economic activity. In other words, SNAP benefits are one of the most effective methods of economic stimulus. Third, we will eliminate restrictions on hot and prepared foods that are discriminatory and unreasonable in a modern economy. And as president, we will strengthen the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC) to ensure newborns and new mothers have the nutritional support they need to be healthy and happy.
Access to healthy food in America is far from equal.
Whether you live in a rural community where grocery stores are closing or live in parts of the inner-city where they refuse to open, food deserts are all too common. When I’m president, we will fight for fair access to healthy food in every community. This starts by directing federal resources toward underserved areas to encourage the creation of more food options, including small business loans for greater local production and encouraging Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models. To support families living far from brick-and-mortar grocery stores, I support allowing EBT cards to be used for online delivery and food shopping. Fundamentally, the opportunity to eat a nutritious diet should not depend on where you live.
As we work to end hunger in America, we will also build a more just food system. The workers who harvest our crops and serve our meals should not struggle to feed their families. We need to raise incomes and reduce poverty across the country with investments such as expanding Medicare to all Americans, universal child care, a $3,000 Child Tax Credit (CTC) per child, and a massive expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to reward hard work. We will also completely reform our immigration system with common sense and compassion, including repealing the public change rule, expanding guest worker visas, and creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. As president, farm and domestic workers will be added under labor law protections and we will strengthen the right to organize a union. While we combat the existential threat of climate change, we will support communities on the frontlines of change and address racial and geographical disparities. Ending hunger demands that we marshal the full power of the federal government and the American people.
The right to eat is a human right.
Like oxygen, water, and shelter, food is a basic necessity for human survival. And research shows that access to food has a profound impact on health, wellbeing and economic outcomes. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, we can all agree that every person should have three meals a day and live without fear of hunger. I believe we have the capacity to end hunger in America. In 1964, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.” That moral vision for America’s future is achievable if invest in the most underserved communities. And in doing so, we will unleash the full potential of all of her people.
Ending Hunger in America
The United States produces more food than any other nation in the world. Food grown in America finds its way to grocery shelves and dinner tables on every corner of the globe. Yet millions of Americans go hungry every day. Millions more live with the constant stress and fear that they are one setback away from going hungry themselves. Measuring its total negative economic impact, hunger costs the American economy over $165 billion a year, and would be cheaper to solve. Inevitably, food insecurity and hunger disproportionately affect those already vulnerable or forgotten in our society. While hunger affects people of every race and background, communities of color, immigrant communities, people with disabilities, families and individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, and LGBT people are all more likely to be food insecure.
In 2018, 11% of all U.S. households were food insecure. As president, in addition to increasing employment and raising wages, I will invest in our existing federal nutrition programs and expand them to fight hunger while deploying new strategies to eliminate hunger in our schools and ensure people living in food deserts have access to the nutrition they need.
Building a Just Food System
Food is about people. The food we eat does more than provide nutrition; it is a marker of our cultures, a connection to family and friends, and one of the most intimate ways in which our personal actions affect and are affected by the world around us. Food production is also how millions of people make a living, and any food-focused policy must make sure that the people who feed us are able to feed themselves and their families. Lastly, food is also about our responsibility to the world we live in, the soil we plant in, the animals we raise for consumption, the health of rural communities, and the overall climate of the planet.