National Hunger Seder Shines a Light on Senior Hunger
Washington, D.C. (March 27, 2019)—MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger held its 11th annual National Hunger Seder in the U.S. Capitol. The event brought together legislators, clergy, community partners, and advocates to participate in Passover traditions while calling attention to the pervasive issue of seniors who struggle with hunger. With nearly 5 million food-insecure older Americans, and thousands more seniors aging into poverty every year, MAZON works to shine a light on this hidden hunger.
“It is unconscionable that hunger among Americans age 60 and older is a growing crisis,” said Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “Older Americans built our families, our communities, and our country. These same seniors are struggling to put food on their tables. Too many seniors face the impossible choice of deciding between medicine or nutritious food. This should never be a choice we ask our seniors to make.”
The Seder was led by Leibman and MAZON Board Treasurer Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky of Congregation Beth Sholom of Teaneck, New Jersey, along with Cantor Jason Kaufman of Beth-El Hebrew Congregation of Alexandria, Virginia. The event was attended by many Members of Congress, as well as Senate Chaplain Barry Black, House Chaplain Patrick Conroy, and staff from Congressional offices including several from the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Participants read from MAZON’s adapted Passover Haggadah, together exploring fundamental questions about the state of senior hunger: “Why is it so hard to be older in America? Why are so many seniors aging into poverty? On this night, we honor our elders, our ancestors, and those who came before us. On all other nights, how is it that we allow seniors to go hungry?”
Senator Bob Casey (PA), Ranking Member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, said, “I am grateful to organizations like MAZON for helping to ensure older adults do not have to choose between putting food on their table and affording their prescription medication. It is with their help that Congress was able to include my bill, the Nourishing Our Golden Years Act, in the 2018 Farm Bill, so that policies governing senior nutrition programs reflect these values.”
“Hunger is a political condition. There are a lot of problems that we don’t know how to solve, but not hunger—that’s solvable. Hunger among seniors is especially appalling—imagine if it was your grandmother or grandfather who couldn’t afford to put food on the table. Many seniors on a fixed income have to decide between food and medication, and it’s shameful,” said Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, who also sits on the House Agriculture Committee. “We can end hunger in our lifetime. We have the food. We have the know-how. What we need is the political will. And I’m so grateful to MAZON for helping to build a movement that demands change. Seeing MAZON’s work and the partners they bring to the table truly makes me believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Our nation has the resources to end hunger, and not doing so is a sign that our priorities are not in order. American children, seniors, and veterans are going hungry, in this, the richest country in the world. Shame on us,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “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. The tireless work of activists and organizations like MAZON bring us closer to ending the epidemic of food insecurity and hunger in America.”
Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22), Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus Aging Issues Task Force, said, “Access to nutritious food is an important part of staying healthy. That’s particularly true for American seniors. Roughly one out of seven seniors in Florida are facing food insecurity, which could mean having to choose between a meal and a dose of medicine or a needed doctor’s visit. As we teach every year during the Passover Seder, it is our responsibility to provide and help those who are hungry. Thank you to MAZON for establishing the National Hunger Seder as an important annual tradition that brings much needed light to hunger in America.”
“Food insecurity and hunger is a painful reality for far too many seniors across Central Virginia and our country,” said Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA-07). “As a member of the House Agriculture Committee and a proud supporter of federal nutrition programs, I’d like to thank MAZON for working to address hunger among the elderly and for shining a light on this painful reality. As millions of Americans mark Passover season, today’s event is an opportunity to raise awareness about this silent crisis and to build a wide-ranging, nonpartisan coalition to help eradicate hunger across our country.”
Other notable attendees included Congressman Dean Phillips (MN-03), Congressman Brad Schneider (IL-10), Congresswoman Donna Shalala (FL-27), and Congressman Steve Watkins (KS-02).
Leibman closed the Seder with a call to action for attendees to raise awareness about the issue of senior hunger in their home communities and advocate for change: “This year’s Hunger Seder shines a light on this shameful problem and inspires all of us to advocate for increased nutrition support programs so that our seniors will no longer have to endure the painful experience of hunger.”