- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Certainly you’ve learned by now that the bipartisan congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or the so-called supercommittee, failed to reach a deal and its members and their colleagues are back home enjoying the wholesome American tradition known as Thanksgiving.

Those same politicians will continue to talk turkey after they return to Washington. But before they do, it’s incumbent upon us on this day and in the months ahead to remember that cutting federal spending can benefit each and every American if we do our part to fill a breach.

That effort includes doing what we can close to home to encourage our communities of faith to reach out to individuals and families who could not afford to even put a tom turkey, a Thanksgiving staple, on the table.

This is not just my humble opinion, but the opinion of a diverse group of Americans recently surveyed by the District-based Public Religion Research Institute.

In that study, 46 percent of Americans like you and me said that “churches and clergy have not provided enough moral leadership on the country’s most pressing economic problems,” while 45 percent of Americans disagreed.

That Americans are practically evenly spilt on the issue speaks volumes about what leadership role, if any, the faith community should play in curbing hunger.

Nonetheless, certain things are evident: The need is great, and the faith community is morally obligated to help.

Regardless of where you personally stand or lean politically, prominent advocacy groups such as the Bread for the World, the Children’s Defense Fund and Share Our Strength agree that child hunger is one of our most pressing social service concerns.

As an example, consider these statistics released this year by the Children’s Defense Fund:

• More than 13 million U.S. children are in the food stamp program.

• More than 18 million receive free or reduced-price lunches at school.

• More than 8 million women, infants and other children participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which subsidizes milk, juice and other nutritious staples.

As the economy continues to sputter, those numbers will surely rise. And as our brothers and sisters continue to stumble, it’s clear we must do more.

Ask your congregation to step up and give thanks for its own blessings by creating a pantry and establishing a food drive and feeding program.

And perhaps consider linking your faith group’s program to your child’s school to help students meet their community-service requirements prior to graduation. Oftentimes, teens wait until their senior year before giving any thought to community service. (And having younger children pledge their faith to curb hunger wouldn’t hurt either.)

We’ve all seen and read the stories of emaciated children in far-off lands who go to bed and awaken each day without a crumb to swallow or healthy meal to eat. And we’re familiar with the news that American youngsters are growing increasingly obese.

Both reflect a picture of poor eating habits.

So take a moment before breaking bread with family and friends on this day. As you bow your head to give thanks for the large or small bounty that you and your loved ones have been blessed with, remember that fighting hunger is as much a Christian value as a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving is an American tradition.

Today is but one day to honor both and push politics off the front burners.

As I like to say, Thanksgiving Day is for faith, family, food and football.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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