In the last two weeks I’ve been able to spend time with three of the Governors whose states have made the most progress in ending childhood hunger: Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas, and Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado. All three understand that children in America are not hungry because of a lack of food or even a lack of food and nutrition programs, but because they lack access to those programs. And all three are sincere in their passion to fix that.
Most important of all, each understands that while food and nutrition programs like school breakfast, summer meals, and SNAP (food stamps) are federally funded, they are implemented at the state and local level and so it is governors who have the power to make or break the national effort to end childhood hunger in America.
All three states experienced dramatic increases in participation in food and nutrition programs once their governors got involved. Arkansas increased summer meals sites from 330 to 441. Colorado increased from 315 to 392. Maryland recently saw a 17% increase in the same year that national participation declined 3%
The difference in each state? Leadership. Some of it has to do with a governor using the bully pulpit to persuade others to do what they should be doing anyway. And some of it has to do with changing the priorities and activities of the state bureaucracy. And this is the kind of leadership that lives and works closer to the people being served. So everyone is more motivated to ensure that good intentions translate to powerful results.
Governors O’Malley, Beebe and Hickenlooper have inspired many of their colleagues as well, such as Republican Governor McDonnell in Virginia and Democratic Governor Malloy in Connecticut. This bipartisanship is one of our greatest hopes for success in ensuring that there is No Kid Hungry.