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The Columbus Dispatch Relays Berg’s Message: Advocate! Food pantries not enough

September 8, 2009

After Executive Director Joel Berg’s visit to Columbus to advocate on behalf of its poor, the Columbus Dispatch published an article relaying the message of Executive Director, Joel Berg:

“Canned-food drives are not ending hunger.”

The article reads:

Anti-hunger advocate Joel Berg says the overburdened network of food pantries and soup kitchens are essential, but charities will never be able to end hunger.

It will take a government-led effort to help an estimated 36 million Americans who can’t afford enough food, Berg told advocates for the poor in Columbus yesterday.

Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and who served in the U.S. Department of Agriculture during the Clinton administration, was the keynote speaker at the Ohio Benefit Bank’s annual meeting in Columbus.

Since its launch three years ago, the benefit bank has helped 82,700 Ohioans access $147 million in tax credits and public benefits such as food stamps and home-energy assistance. Families can obtain help from counselors at more than 1,000 sites operating in nearly all 88 counties.

Berg commended those efforts. But historically, he said, the federal government has been key in addressing social problems such as eradicating outbreaks of yellow fever and cholera and slashing the poverty rate in the 1960s through President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty.

Government, he said, has done much already to reduce hunger through programs such as food stamps, the Women Infants and Children nutrition program and free and reduced-price lunch for school children.

But with more families unable to make ends meet — nearly one-fifth of Ohio children live in poverty — efforts need to be renewed, said Berg, author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America?

Berg wants to expand tax-funded nutrition programs and combine food stamps and other services into one program. Also, he wants the breakfast program available to all students regardless of income.

Pushing employers to pay living wages would ensure workers earn enough to feed their families, he said, adding that efforts also must be made to make healthier, fresh produce available.

Berg estimates it would cost $24 billion a year to eliminate hunger. That’s how much is needed to serve the 36 million Americans that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates can’t afford enough food.

President Barack Obama has pledged to end child hunger by 2015 but has not outlined his plans.

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