Hunger is a Bipartisan Issue

February 16, 2015

By Floyd Hammer, President, Outreach, Inc.

In celebration of Maryland Governor Hogan’s inauguration, over 500 people of all political persuasions set aside their differences, rolled up their sleeves and provided over 100,000 Outreach, Inc. Mac & Cheese meals to feed the hungry in Maryland. This event, on January 25th at the Howard County Community College in Colombia, Maryland, proved that hunger knows no political boundaries and caring people can rally to solve a problem.

Outreach, Inc. President Floyd Hammer (foreground) with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Courtesy, Outreach, Inc.

Outreach, Inc. President Floyd Hammer (foreground) with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. Courtesy, Outreach, Inc.

With the rising awareness of the issue of hunger throughout the U.S., more people are asking the question; how can we work together to solve this problem?

My wife, Kathy, and I started our nonprofit, Outreach, Inc. in 2004 after witnessing children dying in village in Tanzania, East Africa.  Since then, we’ve discovered a few answers to this question of how we can solve hunger.

First, we discovered that people really do care and want to do something practical to solve hunger. Outreach has engaged hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the U.S. as we have facilitated the packaging of over 261 million meals for the hungry in the U.S. and throughout the world. We were honored in 2013 when Presidents Barak Obama and George H.W. Bush invited us to a White House ceremony to receive the 5,000th Points of Light Award.

We recently packaged a million Outreach Mac and Cheese meals with John Deere in eighteen different locations then packaged a million Outreach Rice and Beans meals with the Miami Dolphins and the AARP Foundation. At these locations, the meals were given to the local food banks to feed the hungry in their communities. At the same time, we sent over 1.2 million Outreach Rice and Soy meals to Ebola patients and their families in Liberia.

Second, we learned that there are no silver bullets; we can only solve hunger in the context of community.  There is no organization or government agency that can singularly solve the issue of hunger. It requires all stakeholders in a community from businesses, government agencies and officials, nonprofits, civic and religious organizations, schools, and individuals working together to create collective impact.

Third, we need to understand the difference between relief and development; the two most important concepts in the hunger space. Sometimes people need temporary relief; they need to be given a fish. However, the ultimate goal is to develop sustainable solutions so people can fish for themselves.  Relief should be temporary; development is intended to be permanent. We need to understand that businesses can engage in the fight against hunger by the creation of new jobs.

Fourth, people at our events say, “I’ve never had so much fun doing so much good.”  We need to change the messaging around hunger. Quite often the message of hunger taps into the wrong motivations of guilt, pity, or anger. However, more sustainable motivations are pleasure, fairness, and empathy.

Fifth, hunger will be solved with political will. If you look at a world map, the countries with the most hunger are the countries with the most unstable governments.  Our politicians need to cross the aisles and create short-term solutions relief in feeding programs for the vulnerable as well as long-term solutions through economic policies that foster capitalistic growth and upward mobility.

There is an African proverb that says, “If you want to run fast, run alone. If you want to run far, run with others.”  That proverb is perfectly illustrated in Outreach’s motto: Together, we make a difference.