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Fri Nov 27, 2015, 08:34 PM

No child should go hungry in America.

'This Thanksgiving, my wife Katie and I were lucky to host both of our families at our home in Baltimore. Even with more than 40 friends and family members gathered at the table, no one left our table hungry.

Sadly, for thousands of children across the country, that was not the case.

Today in America, one in five children are living in poverty, without enough to eat. In the most prosperous nation the world has ever seen, this is unacceptable. As I travel across our great country, I have met many generous and caring Americans who agree.

The fact is, we can make sure that no child goes hungry – not in some distant time or the next generation, but within five years. That’s why I have made eliminating child hunger by 2020 one of my 15 Goals for Rebuilding the American Dream – which will serve as a guide, day in and day out, for what I would do as president.

In Maryland, I was a pro-growth governor: I believed in children growing strong, growing healthy, growing smarter and growing to realize their potential. And I understood that when our kids showed up to school hungry, they were not only less able to learn, but also less likely to get ahead, graduate and find a good paying job. That’s why I made our state the first to commit to ending child hunger by 2015.

I brought our state together to draw up a plan of action, and I held everyone accountable for doing their part. Most importantly, we held ourselves accountable. We asked: How many more kids are we feeding this week compared to last week? Because families mean more than simple statistics, we had to know, every day, whether fewer of our neighbors were going hungry.

In just a few short years, we achieved extraordinary progress – with actions not words. We increased dramatically the number of kids being fed at school, including breakfast and after-school and summer meals. Many were already eating free or reduced-price lunch but that didn’t do enough when they were going hungry later in the day. And these steps were imperative to making our schools the best in the nation five years in a row.

We also did more to connect families to existing resources in their communities. We increased outreach, doubling the number of eligible families with kids who participated in our state version of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, or SNAP. We made sure that women and infants had the nutritional support they needed to stay healthy and strong.

Every state could – and should – take the same actions, and feed many more kids. And with presidential leadership, the federal government can support and drive them so that no child anywhere in America goes hungry.

This means, first and foremost, fighting back against austerity budgets that hurt our people and do nothing to grow our economy. The only way to make our economy stronger is to create jobs and help families get back on their feet.

Yet in recent years, we’ve seen dramatic cuts to programs that are most important to our kids and families. A paltry 2 percent of new federal funding over the next 10 years will go to programs benefiting children. Republicans would lower that number even further: The budgets they put forward in Congress earlier this year would get a whopping two-thirds of its “savings” from nutrition programs and others that help low-income and middle-class families.

Instead of trying to cut our way to prosperity, we should restore cuts to key nutrition programs like SNAP that put food on the table for our children, seniors and veterans. We must continue to strengthen the National School Lunch Program, including provisions that allow certain schools – including all Baltimore city schools – to offer free lunch to all students, without first making students complete reams of paperwork.

We can do a far better job connecting families with children to supports they are already eligible for. And it is critically important that we keep growing our economy in ways that create more and better jobs.

These are the issues that motivated me to run for president. I don’t believe that any child in America should go hungry on Thanksgiving, and I actually want to do something about it.

Many years ago, Robert Kennedy told us, “If we cannot feed the children of our nation, there is very little we will be able to do to live up to the principles which our founders set out.” Making sure our children grow up healthy and strong is essential to building an economy that works for everyone. Together, we can make our country a better, stronger and more compassionate place.'

(Martin O’Malley is a Democratic candidate for president and a former governor of Maryland.)


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