United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor Initiative Mobilizes, Equips Americans to Help End Hunger.

The Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the White House joined together to launch the United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor initiative today to help combat hunger this winter. The new initiative raises awareness of hunger issues and equips American with the resources to mobilize against the hunger crisis.

On a conference call today, Nicola Goren, Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Special Assistant to the President Joshua DuBois made clear the need for immediate action to address hunger and discussed how United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor would engage American in combating the problem.

“Hunger has reached crisis levels for far too many in this country,” said Nicola Goren. “The need can seem overwhelming, but it’s not insurmountable. This initiative provides individuals with the tools to identify needs in their community and ways they can ensure that their neighbors have enough to eat.”

Feed A Neighbor is part of President Obama’s national call to service, the United We Serve initiative, and the Administration’s answer to hunger. The two major components of the initiative include an anti-hunger volunteer toolkit developed by USDA that provides information about how individuals can directly and immediately affect hunger and access to service opportunities in their local community on

This intensified effort is part of the Corporation and USDA’s year-round commitment to support anti-hunger programs in communities across the country, and is scheduled to run from Thanksgiving Day through Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, January 18.

The initiative comes at a time when the USDA reports that the current level of hunger in America is at the highest it has been since 1995. The 2008 Household Food Security Report found that the number of households experiencing food insecurity jumped more than 11% from 13 million households in 2007 to 17 million in 2008, and that an estimated 1.1 million children lived in households that experienced hunger multiple times throughout the year.

Additionally, national anti-hunger organizations recently reported that the need for emergency food assistance is up 30% compared to last year and over half of the nation’s food banks have had to turn people away. 1 in 5 Americans currently participate in USDA’s nutrition assistance programs.

“The unsettling USDA report showing more than 49 million Americans were at risk to go hungry in 2008 highlights the challenge of domestic hunger; a problem that the American sense of fairness should not tolerate and American ingenuity can overcome,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“While the Department of Agriculture’s nutrition assistance programs provide a safety net that improves food access to those with critical needs, to end hunger in our country we must work together. The United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor volunteer initiative and toolkit provide great ideas for how Americans can make an impact and combat hunger in their own communities.”

President Obama reiterated his commitment to eliminating childhood hunger by 2015 and reversing the trend in rising hunger last week in response to the staggering statistics released in the USDA report. The Administration has taken decisive steps to alleviate hunger by providing a significant increase in nutrition assistance benefits for the 36.5 million people (half of whom are children) through the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and investing $85 million in new strategies to prevent children from experiencing hunger in the summer months.

“In the coming days and weeks, the White House will continue to shine a spotlight on this critical issue, and the Feed A Neighbor initiative is the next crucial step in this administration’s comprehensive strategy to address hunger,” Joshua DuBois said. “Hunger cuts across all ages and all communities in our country. As President Obama has said, it is a problem that will take the work of all Americans, and together we can and will solve it.”

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will hold a series of outreach meetings with faith and neighborhood organizations to engage them in United We Serve: Feed A Neighbor and help promote the new initiative among their network of supporters. Many of these groups are on the front lines of the hunger crisis and provide assistance to thousands daily.