photo of Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA

A Most Rewarding Moment for Childhood Hunger

On Monday, December 13, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law. I am pleased to share the following account from Lucreda Cobbs, Catholic Charities USA’s Sr. Director of Advocacy and Civic Engagement, who was present at the signing:

In the advocacy world, it’s rare that you actually get to see the moment your hard work comes to fruition, but that’s how I spent my Monday morning. After months of emails, calls, Hill visits and Congressional briefings, I sat in the front row at The Harriet Tubman School and watched President Barack Obama sign the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law.

I’ll admit I’m occasionally prone to having “a case of the Mondays,” but getting ready for work that morning I realized I wasn’t having those moments of longing for an extended weekend. It was a day I had been looking forward to for a long time.

As part of Catholic Charities USA’s policy team, I have been advocating for passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act for months. Eliminating childhood hunger is central to our work at Catholic Charities to reduce poverty, and this legislation brings that goal closer to reality. While I knew our organization’s work had been important to eventual passage, I never imagined it would lead to an invitation from the White House to attend the actual signing!

As I dressed that morning I thought about the different Congressional members I might see there, what I would say if I actually met the President or the First Lady(!), but the person that would impact me the most that morning took me by complete surprise.

Sitting in the room that morning I found myself engrossed in conversation with Brianna. Brianna is nine years old and has been attending The Harriet Tubman School for five years, and this bill was passed for her. It was passed for her and for all of the children whose families struggle to feed them healthy nutritious food.

Getting to know Brianna and seeing many of her classmates who would also benefit from the legislation made me both happy and sad. I was blessed as a child to not know what it meant to go to school hungry. I was blessed to have three square meals provided to me every day (whether I liked what was being served or not). But finally, I was blessed to get to a point in my life where I am in a position to make a difference. So while I was sad to look around that room and know that these children face a struggle every day that I couldn’t possibly understand, I was happy to know that I had an ability to make a difference in their lives.

There was an air of excitement in that school on Monday. An understanding that this bill would make the lives of children across the country better. But as I left I couldn’t help but think, what’s next?

While the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act will help to feed over 30 million children, there is so much more work that must be done to help the millions of American families who are struggling in poverty throughout the country. While Monday morning was an opportunity to celebrate an accomplishment, it was also a time to recognize the tremendous work we have in front of us.

We continue to advocate for more efficient service delivery systems. We continue to advocate for a better way to assess the needs of those living in poverty and to address those needs in a holistic manner, rather than the piecemeal services those in need receive today. We continue to advocate for not only poverty alleviation services, but to recognize that things can be done to prevent those on the brink from even falling into poverty. There is so much to be done and Monday’s signing gave me the invigoration I needed to keep on advocating.

Brianna and her friends will see a better tomorrow as a result of Monday’s signing, now I will count my blessings and get back to work on better tomorrows for others in need.

- Lucreda Cobbs, Catholic Charities USA