Remarks by the President at Capital Area Food Bank (11/22/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                November 22, 2000

                         REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                         AT CAPITAL AREA FOOD BANK

                                    Washington. D.C.

1:22 P.M. EST

          THE PRESIDENT:  First of all, I want to thank Secretary Glickman,
and all the people that he mentioned for the work that they've done that he
discussed today.  And I want to say a special word of appreciation to Lynn
Brantley.  Thank you for your kind comments, but actually, the District of
Columbia could better do without me than you.  You have been great, and I
thank you so much for everything you have done.  (Applause.)

          This lady has been working on hunger issues since she marched
with Dr. King.  She's been at it a long time -- and she's still a young
lady.  (Laughter.)  So she's got a long way to go, and we thank her.

          I want to thank the wonderful D.C. Delegate, Eleanor Holmes
Norton; and D.C. City Council Chair, Linda Cropp; and Vincent Orange, Ward
5 Council member.  And I want to say a special word of appreciation -- this
may be my last public chance to do it -- to Representative Tony Hall from
Ohio, who, for years and years and years, when it was popular and no one
paid attention, has been the number one opponent of hunger in the United
States and around the world in the entire United States Congress.  Thank
you, Tony Hall, for everything you have done.  (Applause.)

          I also want to point out that we have some participation here
from one of my favorite accomplishments as President, the establishment of
AmeriCorps, the national service corps.  We have AmeriCorps volunteers, and
I think we even have some alumni here.  And I want to acknowledge Senator
Harris Wofford, the Director of the Corporation for National Service, and
thank him for all that AmeriCorps has done, including this project and
their participation here over the last eight years.  Thank you, sir.
                                 - 5 -

                                 - 2 -

          I also want to say appreciations, thanks to all the people that
are working here who let me work with them.  The folks in the back were
tolerant when I couldn't remember what box I was supposed to put which item
of food in.  (Laughter.)  And the young people there were tolerant when I
couldn't remember how many cans of what I was supposed to put in the box.
And we got through it all right.

          The students are from Garfield Terrace.  And I think as we
prepare our own Thanksgivings, the people in our country should give thanks
for people like all these volunteers here, young and old and those in the
middle, who keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive every day by giving to
others.  And I thank them.  This is a great lesson for these young people
to learn early in life, and I hope they'll keep it up.  Let's give them a
big hand.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

          I always try to do some community service at Thanksgiving to
highlight something good that's going on in our community, in our country.
This year, I wanted to come here because I think it's too easy for
Americans to forget, when we have the strongest economy in our history, and
we've had the biggest drop in child poverty in 34 years, and the lowest
overall poverty rate in 20 years -- that all sounds really good, and it is
really good -- it's good that we've got 22 million new jobs.  It's good
that all sectors of the economy have their incomes going up, from the
lowest fifth to the top fifth and everybody in between.  It's all really
good.  But this is a very big country.  And it's very important at
Thanksgiving that we not forget that in the midst of all of our plenty and
all of our prosperity, there are still Americans of all ages who have
trouble getting enough decent food to eat every single day.  And a lot of
Americans do not know that.

          I hope by coming here, one of the things that will happen -- and
Secretary Glickman mentioned it earlier -- is that more Americans will be
aware of this and will support this institution or their local food bank,
wherever they live; or their local religious institutions or whoever else
is involved in every community.  There's somebody in every community trying
to feed people that don't have enough food, and they need help in getting
the food.

          And so that's the main reason I wanted to come here today.  We
see these people who don't have enough to eat sometimes living on the
street.  But we don't see them if they're senior citizens on very small
fixed incomes.  We don't see them sometimes if they're working families
getting by on the minimum wage with more kids than can live on a minimum
wage.  By the way, it's another argument for raising the minimum wage.
We've got one more chance to do that when the Congress comes back in
December.  (Applause.)  And a shockingly high number of people who don't
have enough to eat are kids.

          As Lynn said a moment ago -- I want to re-emphasize it because
somebody might have missed what she said -- one in three Washington, D.C.
children, the capital of the country that has the strongest economy in the
world, lives every single day at some risk of going to bed hungry.  One in
three in the capital of the country with the best economy in the world,
with the best economy we've ever had, is at risk of going to bed hungry at

          The Capital Area Food Bank helps to right that wrong by
distributing 20 million pounds of food a year to community kitchens,
children's programs and other emergency feeding centers.  How many people
-- did you say you had over 750 groups that come here to get food?  Around
the nation, a network of private organizations, religious groups and
civic-minded individuals are doing the same thing.  Just like our friends
from Giant Food here are helping.

          Now, this commitment, this grass-roots citizens' commitment to
fighting hunger, is a great national treasure for us.  The challenge for
people like us in government is to find ways to work with community groups
and businesses and farmers to end hunger in America -- and not just on
Thanksgiving or Christmas, but every day.  And we need citizen help there,
as well.

          Secretary Glickman talked about our Community Food Security
Initiative and the progress we've made, and I really thank him for his
personal leadership and commitment.  Soon after I named him Agriculture
Secretary, Dan told me about a program he'd started in his home state in
Kansas to collect food that would otherwise be wasted and pass it on.  He
told me then, and he just whispered in my ear again today, one of his -- he
wants to make sure I remember this, so he said it again -- that our country
loses about 96 billion -- that's "b," not million, billion -- pounds of
food a year that could be consumed, but instead it's thrown out or allowed
to spoil.

          So we established a program that allows federal agencies to send
excess food to food banks like this one.  In 10 agencies and the United
States House of Representatives -- thank you, Tony and Eleanor -- and
several local military bases are now taking part in this.

          But now we've got to meet the longer-term challenge, to make sure
low-income Americans and seniors get the food at affordable prices they
need in the neighborhoods where they live.  This is a real problem for
people in inner cities and in rural areas, where more than 20 percent of
the stores carry no fresh produce at all, or there simply aren't any stores
at all.  It's a tragedy for children who especially need vitamins when
they're growing up, and for older people who need fruits and vegetables to
fight diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

          So today I'm going to announce three new initiatives that will at
least help to change that, and will help America's small farmers find new
markets for their produce.

          First, we're going to make available $10 million in grants to
help seniors take advantage of farmers' markets.  There are farmers'
markets all over this country that offer good produce at affordable prices,
but you can't take food stamps to them.  And so we've asked the states and
the Indian Tribal governments to apply to the Department of Agriculture by
December 1st, to use the funding to create coupons that will allow as many
as a half-million seniors on limited incomes to shop directly at farmers
markets or buy from local farms directly.  And when seniors and low-income
people are able to purchase fresh local produce, their health improves and
so does the health of the local farm economy.

          Capital City Food Bank has demonstrated that here by starting the
Anacostia Farmers' Market, which I imagine a lot of you are familiar with,
and bringing local growers to Southeast, D.C., as well as being one of only
four farmers' markets in the nation to accept food stamps.  That's why
we've got to do this coupon thing, because most of them don't.

          Second, the Department of Agriculture will spend $200 million
more next year to buy fruits and vegetables and donate them to community
kitchens, schools, and other emergency feeding centers.  That means
millions more healthy snacks and senior centers, fresh vegetables and
school lunches and full shelves at the Capital City Food Bank and others
like it across our country.

          Third, we're going to spend about $2.5 million in new community
food project grants to 16 nonprofits in 13 states, to help build community
gardens at public schools and in vacant lots.  They'll then fund training
in gardening, nutrition and food preparation for young people to help
create farmers' markets in under-served areas, by using land that's out
there in communities and towns now to let people grow some food that can
either be consumed or sold.

          Now, all these initiatives are good for our seniors, our working
families, our kids, and our farmers.  They will build a direct connection
between people who grow food and people who need it.  They will take
another step toward ensuring that, in this land of plenty, no child -- no
American -- should go to bed hungry.

          That ought to be a national goal.  It ought to transcend
political parties, race, age, and region.  But there are people in cities
and little country towns, on Indian reservations, who are hungry.  And I
will say again:  If we -- I know I have said this so many times about so
many of our problems, but if you take this problem -- if we cannot deal
with this now, when we have the strongest economy in our history, the
lowest unemployment rate in 30 years, the highest work force participation
in our history, and at least a manageable number of people struggling with
this, when are we ever going to deal with it?

          So, at this Thanksgiving, we should all be thankful for our
blessings; we should all look around at people who need help and try to
give them a little.  But we ought to make a commitment to deal with this
systematically.  If Lynn can spend a lifetime dealing with this, the rest
of us ought to spend a year fixing it so that she'll have the resources she
needs to actually meet the problem that's out there.

          I hope these steps will help.  I'm sure they will -- but there's
more to be done.  Thank you and happy Thanksgiving.  (Applause.)

          Q    Any thoughts on Secretary Cheney?

          THE PRESIDENT:  Just that I hope he'll be well and fine.  I just
found out right before I came over here, and I'm going to go back to the
White House now to either call him or write him a note.  I hope he's fine.

          Thank you.  (Applause.)

                           END       1:40 P.M. EST

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E