Just Harvest calls for full government harvest

The theme of last week’s Just Harvest annual fundraiser was “Overcoming Hunger: A Renewed Commitment.” That theme was underscored with Sunday’s introduction of Lilly, a hungry Muppet; hunger has moved from Main Street to Sesame Street.

Just Harvest is a local nonprofit that seeks to promote economic justice and end hunger.

OVERCOMING HUNGER—From left: Just Harvest Board President Sister Barbra Finch, Tony Hall, Joyce Rothermel and Tara Marks, Just Harvest co-director. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

At least two to three nights a month, 50 million Americans go to bed hungry. Many of these are the working poor or the elderly. In some families, adults go without in order to feed their children.

“Nobody should ever go to bed hungry in our country,” said former U.S. Rep. Tony P. Hall during his keynote remarks at Just Harvest’s annual fundraiser dinner at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

Hall, who served as U.N. Food and Agriculture ambassador, was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite work by soup kitchens, food banks and advocacy organizations like Just Harvest, the U.S. hasn’t been able to eradicate hunger, said Hall.

“There’s been progress, but there hasn’t been the kind of progress to end it,” he said. “We haven’t really developed the political will.”

Hall visited over 100 hunger-stricken countries over his tenure as chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger, and even fasted in protest for 22 days when the committee was dissolved in 1993. He wrote about his experiences in his 2007 book, “Changing the Face of Hunger: One Man’s Story of How Liberals, Conservatives, Demo­crats, Republicans, and People of Faith Are Joining Forces to Help the Hungry, the Poor, and the Oppressed.”

The United States’ first priority should be ending hunger domestically; its second should be ending hunger abroad, he said.

“Everybody thinks that we spend this tremendous amount of money on international hunger and development overseas, but the fact is that it really comes to one half of 1 percent of our federal budget,” he said.

Hall concluded his remarks by urging the audience to get involved.

“Its important to engage your elected officials. Don’t let them get away with voting for budget cuts that aid the needy. You must represent the voices of those not heard in Congress.”

During the evening, Just Harvest gave its George Becker Memorial Award to Hall and the Seeds of Justice award to Joyce Rothermel, former CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Rothermel, a founding member of Just Harvest’s board of directors, a co-founder of the Food Bank and a board president of the Hunger Action Coalition, has been involved in area anti-hunger advocacy over 30 years.

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