As Americans celebrate Thanksgiving this week, families and friends come together to reflect, give thanks and enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast. However, millions – in fact, one in six Americans – struggle each day to even get enough food to eat. The unfortunate reality is that food insecurity exists in every community in our nation.
Living in the breadbasket of America, it can sometimes be difficult to comprehend the prevalence of hunger at home and around the world. Yet, hunger is real – it threatens the future of millions every day. Hunger creates political instability, stunts economic growth, and robs individuals of their dignity and self-potential.
When I travel throughout our state, I recognize the impact of hunger in our communities. I also appreciate how Kansans react to this problem with compassion and a genuine desire to help our friends and neighbors prosper. I recently visited the Flint Hills Breadbasket to learn more about their mission of minimizing hunger and poverty in the Manhattan area. For 32 years, they have been collecting and distributing food with the help of many volunteers and churches. Last year, volunteers created and distributed more than 200 Thanksgiving baskets to food-insecure families. I was also encouraged to learn that many of the individuals receiving food are actively trying to find employment and working to improve their lives.
To help food banks and the Americans they serve, last year I introduced bipartisan legislation that encourages businesses and farms to donate surplus food to local food banks. The Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act permanently extends a tax credit for donating food and expands the credit to all businesses including small businesses, farmers, ranchers and restaurant owners. Permanently extending the hunger relief tax incentive will increase food bank contributions and help ensure that less food goes to waste. I hopeful commonsense legislation like this is soon considered with a new Senate Majority in the 114th Congress.
Many Kansans – including former Senator Bob Dole and former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman – have worked to end hunger at home and abroad. I appreciate their efforts and the individuals who continue to raise awareness about hunger and food insecurity – oftentimes an invisible tragedy. In my effort to represent this spirit of Kansans, I served as co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus for four years in the U.S. House of Representatives and currently co-chair the Senate Hunger Caucus. Established in 2004, the Senate Hunger Caucus exists to promote anti-hunger causes, provide a forum for briefings about hunger issues, and facilitate communication between those working to combat hunger and lawmakers who support programs and policies assisting those in need.
As part of my role on the Senate Hunger Caucus, I have met with individuals and organizations that are working tirelessly to fight hunger around the globe like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They believe that helping farm families increase agricultural development and production is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the long term.
I am of the belief that we change the world one soul, one person at a time. This Thanksgiving, I hope you will consider supporting or volunteering at an organization like the Flint Hills Breadbasket in your community. Just a few hours of your time giving back can help make this holiday a memorable one for you, your family and for those in need.
Robba and I join all Kansans in celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends, and giving thanks for our blessings. I am especially grateful for the service and charitable organizations that support our communities and those in need. I hope you and your families also enjoy time together and have the chance to reflect on all we have to be thankful for – both as Kansans and Americans.