March 20, 2018

National Hunger Seder Calls Attention to Veterans Struggling with Food Insecurity

By Liza Lieberman
MAZON 2018 Passover Haggadah

Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2018)—MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger hosted its tenth annual National Hunger Seder in the U.S. Capitol earlier today. This year’s event brought attention to veterans who struggle with food insecurity, as part of MAZON’s ongoing effort to remove the barriers that prevent veterans and currently-serving military families from accessing vital food assistance programs.

“Our public officials must do more to address this reprehensible problem that has been too long ignored,” said Abby J. Leibman, president & CEO of MAZON. “MAZON is proud to have worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to implement food insecurity screenings in the VA system. Now, more needs to be done to connect the millions of veterans in need with SNAP [the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and other essential programs that can help them put food on the table.”

Leibman led the Seder with Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky of Congregation Beth Sholom of Teaneck, New Jersey and Cantor Jason Kaufman of Beth-El Hebrew Congregation of Alexandria, Virginia. The event was attended by several Members of Congress and their staff, as well as Senate Chaplain Barry Black and officials from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and various advocacy partner organizations. Participants read from MAZON’s adapted Passover haggadah, together declaring that “as long as Americans continue to struggle with food insecurity, we will continue to dedicate this Hunger Seder to the goal of ending hunger and its causes.”

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(L to R) MAZON president & CEO Abby Leibman, Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep Jan Schakowsky, Rep David Cicilline; photo credit: Joseph Molieri for MAZON

“Hunger in America is a decision,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “We live in the richest country in the world at the richest time in our history. No American should ever have to go hungry, especially not our nation’s children, seniors, and veterans. I am proud to join MAZON for their National Hunger Seder to bring attention to these critical issues, and to continue our fight to end hunger in America. Events like this Seder and the tireless work of activists and organizations like MAZON bring us closer to ending the epidemic of food insecurity and hunger in America.”

Hunger Seder Collage

Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) reflected on his visit to MAZON’s This Is Hunger exhibit in Atlanta last year, recalling it as an “eye-opening experience revealing hunger is a widespread problem that is closer to home than many people realize.” Johnson continued, “I applaud MAZON for the work they do every day to address hunger in America and in all our communities. For this year’s National Hunger Seder, MAZON is turning its attention to one of the myths of hunger—that there is no hunger in our military. By focusing on our veterans this year, MAZON is not just raising attention to this sad truth, but addressing the problem with action.”

“Hunger is a political decision,” declared Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Nutrition Subcommittee. “There are a lot of problems that I don’t know how to solve, but not hunger—this is a solvable problem. And seeing the broad array of partners around this Seder table makes me think that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We can change the reality, and I think it’s happening.”

“It’s significant that we say ‘we were slaves’ during Passover” said Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10). “This is not just story of the past—it impacts how we work to address injustice today. Until we end hunger in this country, none of us is really free.”

This year’s National Hunger Seder took place amidst a backdrop of stalled negotiations on the 2018 Farm Bill, which sets the U.S. government’s agriculture and food policy. MAZON is urging Members of Congress to ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill protects and strengthens federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and removes barriers to assistance for vulnerable populations including currently-serving military families and veterans. 

“We know there is a direct connection between tackling food insecurity and moving the needle on poverty reduction in our neighborhoods,” said Congressman Dwight Evans (PA-02). “As we tell the Passover story, we are reminded of the struggle too many of our family members, friends, neighbors, and loved ones are facing today. As we come together this Passover, we stand united and committed to our shared goal to make access to healthy, nutritious foods a reality for everyone in our neighborhoods.”

“The values of the Jewish faith instruct us to care for our neighbors and feed the hungry,” said Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23). “MAZON puts these fundamental values into practice, and their efforts are more vital than ever, as federal nutrition programs fail to keep pace with families’ needs, yet face continued funding threats.”

To view and download MAZON’s Passover resources, visit mazon.org/passover. Read more about the Farm Bill at mazon.org/farmbill.