Hunger & Poverty UP in USA: Congress hears testimony FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 12 Jun 1999 10:32:01 -0700 (PDT)


FWD
Subject: Increasing Hunger and Poverty in US
          Date: Mon, 31 May 1999
(Article from Food First _Institute for Food and Development
398 60th St Oakland CA 94618 <foodfirst@food first.org>
             http://www.foodfirst.org

CONGRESSIONAL HEARING ON INCREASING HUNGER AND POVERTY IN THE US

    The U.S. economy is booming, yet 1997 census figures show only a
slight decline in poverty, which affected 35.6 million Americans - 40
percent of whom were children. The Bureau's latest report came while
the Congressional Progressive Caucus witnessed the heart-wrenching
cost of indiscriminate cuts in the social safety net at the Economic
Human Rights Hearing, held on September 23, 1998 on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-AL), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. Nancy
Pelosi (D-CA), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) presided at the Economic
Human Rights Hearing/Progressive Challenge. The hearing was organized
by Food First in collaboration with the Institute for Policy Studies,
and progressive members of the Congress. It featured 17 Americans who
gave a firsthand account of their experiences with increasing hunger,
poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. "It isn't that I never
worked," said a grandmother, Katherine Engels. "I worked since 1 was
14 years old. The A jobs that are out there-you are not making enough
in order to live. Mothers go hungry at night so their children can
eat." The essence of their testimony was that while America
criticizes other countries on their human rights records, our country
is not meeting the minimum economic human rights standards
spelled out fifty years ago by the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights (UDHR).

The hearings not only put a human face on poverty, but also pointed
out some very a disturbing facts in a prosperous America.

Thirty million Americans are hungry, five to seven million are
homeless, and more than 43 million have no health insurance. By a
conservative definition, one in every eight Americans is denied the
basic right to a standard of living adequate for the health and a
well being of themselves and their families.

"Your stories are the true scandals that our nation should be focused
on. It is scandalous that there are over five and a half million
people with worst-case housing. It is scandalous that we cannot meet
the standards of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It
is scandalous that we have forgotten Roosevelt's Second Bill of
Rights, which declares that we have a right to adequate housing,
among other basic human rights," said Rep. Barbara Lee, who responded
to testimonies on increasing homelessness in the U.S. Rep. George
Miller (D-CA) noted that until the U.N. Declaration is "treated as
the law of our land, working men and women and their families will
always have to fight for the basic necessities -The removal of
the welfare safety net makes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's
promise of Freedom from Want ring hollow to the millions of Americans
whose families are hungry or homeless," he said.

The hearing was the culmination of the second phase of our
campaign "Economic Human Rights: The Time Has Come!' which marks the
50th anniversary of the UDHR. The campaign is asking the U.S. to
reaffirm its weight in law by ratifying and implementing the
International Covenant for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights,
which guarantees everyone an adequate standard of living, including
the right to food.

On October 16, 1998, our documentary, America Needs Human Rights,
based on first ad hoc Congressional hearing in Oakland, California,
aired on several PBS channels and 1200 closed circuits as part of the
fifteenth annual World Food Day Satellite Teleconference organized by
the US National Committee for World Food Day. Food First"s Policy
Director , Anuradha Mittal, was one of four experts panelists for the
teleconference. The topic of this year teleconference was "Food For
All: Right or Goal?". In 1999 we will release a new Food First book,
America Needs Human Rights: Fighting Hunger and Poverty in the
Richest Nation on Earth.

Prior to the hearing we ran full-page advertisements in the New
York Times-West Coast Edition and a double page advertisement in The
nation magazine. We have had a great response from readers."

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