Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I implore the U.S. Congress to feed hungry children

"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"

"I will with God's help."

                    From The Renewal of  Baptismal Vows, The Book of Common Prayer, p 294

Today, I received an email message from the Episcopal Public Policy Network, a ministry of the Episcopal Church that seeks to influence public policy for the good of all human beings and all creation.  In its message today, the network called on me to contact my elected representatives in Washington, D.C., encouraging them to reauthorize legislation that will help reduce hunger among children.

Dear Senators Blunt and McCaskill and Rep. Blunt:

I see poor people almost daily. They come to my church, Christ Episcopal Church, Springfield, for help.

I am especially troubled when I see hungry children. I am heart-broken when I hear true stories about children who go home from school on Friday and who have little to eat until they return to school on Monday. Famished. Springfield school teachers tell these stories.

I serve on the board of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, and I know that the Council's Crosslines feeding program is overwhelmed by need, as is the Well of Life, which my church and other downtown churches support and staff with volunteers.

Such hunger should not exist in Springfield or, indeed, in any community in America, the richest country in the world.

Surely, we can do better. And I believe we must.

As an Episcopalian, as a pastor who cares for people's souls and bodies and as your constituent, I am deeply concerned about hunger in my community. I am thankful that churches, non-profit groups and government bodies here and elsewhere are working together to reduce child hunger.

I know that each of you has a good, compassionate heart. Each of you is a person of faith. None of you wants to see children go hungry.

You can do something to help feed hungry children. You have a special opportunity to strengthen child nutrition legislation that is set to expire on September 30.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act helps millions of low-income children daily. It provides them free or reduced-price meals, which improve their health, educational achievement and advancement and physical development.

The Act encompasses several federal programs--including the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children--and my denomination, The Episcopal Church, supports these programs.

The reauthorization process grants you the opportunity to review and improve the policies contained within the Child Nutrition Act. I ask that you act swiftly to strengthen nutrition and school meal programs for our children today and for generations to come.

And as you work to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act, please ensure that these nutrition programs are fully funded and that other important programs that meet human needs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), are also fully funded. One program should not be cut to fund another one.

In addition, I ask you to make these feeding programs more accessible to low-income children, children in preschool and childcare and youth who are out of school on holidays.

Finally, please ensure that the services provided within each feeding program are based on strong nutrition standards that are grounded in scientifically reviewed data.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue.

Because one in five children is at risk of hunger in the United States, I urge you to act now to strengthen and to reauthorize this legislation so that our children will receive the adequate and nutritious food that they need to thrive.

Grace and peace to you in Christ,

The Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley
Rector, Christ Episcopal Church
Springfield, MO