November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

We are fortunate to live in a state that produces a wealth of quality agricultural products.  To illustrate Idaho's remarkable agriculture production, I have often cited statistics from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture indicating that if Idahoans had to consume all products produced within the state, each resident would need to consume the following each day:  234 slices of bread; forty potatoes; two pounds of cheese or forty-two glasses of milk; one eight-ounce steak or 1.5 quarter-pound burger; two onions; and two cups of beans.  Idaho agriculture is feeding the world, and thankfully this high-quality food is filling many of our tables this Thanksgiving.

However, this abundance does not necessarily mean that every family has the food they need.  Estimates indicate that one in six Idaho residents and one in four Idaho children are food insecure, which generally means that they lack enough income and other resources for food.  Nationally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that approximately thirty-five million Americans, including twelve million children, live in households with either "low" or "very low" food security.  Globally, nearly one billion people are chronically hungry, according to estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). 

Additionally, alarming amounts of food are lost as waste.  A report commissioned by the FAO that was released earlier this year indicated that approximately one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted.

Compassionate Idahoans, food banks and other organizations work tirelessly to utilize Idaho's production to eliminate hunger.  Local partnerships between hunger organizations and the agricultural community channel much-needed food to those in need throughout our communities.  Efforts such as these make a difference in the lives of many families.  Further, Congress has enacted and considered legislation to encourage the donation of excess wholesome foods and remove obstacles for delivery of surplus food.  However, more can always be done.

This month, I co-sponsored a resolution introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) that would provide for the designation of Thursday, November 17, 2011 as "Feed America Day."  This year marks the seventh consecutive year that this day has been acknowledged in the Senate.  The resolution would encourage citizens to sacrifice two meals and donate the money they would have spent on food to a local organization for the purpose of feeding the hungry. 

Despite our national challenges, there is much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  We are blessed to live in a great nation where freedom, opportunity and a spirit of selfless giving abounds.  Remarkable work is being done throughout our communities to eliminate hunger and focus attention on helping those in need in the spirit of the Thanksgiving season.  As we join with family and friends in celebrating Thanksgiving, let us count these among our many blessings.

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