Sep 03 2009

Chef Allen Susser: Ending Childhood Hunger

By Chef Allen Susser
Regional Spokesperson and Chair
Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Miami

Americans are feeling the effects of a troubled national economy. Soaring fuel and food prices are taking their toll on families, with no sign of relief in sight.

These economic hardships affect our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. In the United States, more than 12 million children are at risk of hunger. In Florida alone, more than 627,000 children are at risk of hunger. Nearly 1 in 10 Florida households are food insecure—that’s more than 680,000 families who lack access to the nutritious foods they need to lead healthy, active lives.

As a chef, I take pleasure in feeding people. As a citizen, I find it appalling that people in my community are hungry.

Twenty years ago, I joined Share Our Strength’s efforts to fight hunger. In 1988, the organization created Taste of the Nation, the nation’s premier culinary benefit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. I chaired Share Our Strength’s first Taste of the Nation event in Miami, and continue to be part of Share Our Strength’s national efforts. Since then, we’ve raised more than $5 million in Florida through Taste of the Nation events in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach and Orlando. Share Our Strength has raised more than $200 million to end childhood hunger nationwide.

Recognizing the need for a more coordinated approach to address childhood hunger in Florida, Share Our Strength in partnership with Florida Impact recently launched the state’s first plan to end childhood hunger. The Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Florida has been endorsed by Lieutenant Governor Kottkamp and includes representatives from the public and private sectors. The partnership aims to:

  • improve the economic security of Florida’s families,
  • provide better nutrition education to Florida’s families,
  • maximize existing tools and resources to address hunger and malnutrition, and,
  • close the gaps in service delivery among Florida’s food and nutrition providers.

In 2006, more than $1 billion from three federal food programs in Florida (school breakfast, food stamps and summer feeding programs) went unspent. The Partnership’s plan will use these funds to expand federal feeding programs in more than 50 counties, beginning with Orange, Polk, and Osceola counties; Hillsborough and Pinellas counties; and Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. By using these funds, we can feed more than 864,000 eligible children free school breakfast; increase the value of food stamps; aid and support more summer feeding programs; and help food pantries and emergency food programs expand their distribution and educational services.

Through the Partnership’s plan, we can end childhood hunger in Florida. There has never been a more critical time for such a plan. Together, we can make sure that no child in Florida grows up hungry

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