An international perspective: hunger and poverty are dire issues, whether in the U.S. or at home


June 21, 2019

Editor’s note: CHN Intern Rebekah Kim Jong is a rising senior at Liberty University. Her major is International Relations, and her minors are Chinese and Business.

Three years ago, in August 2016, I set foot on American soil for the first time. I was ecstatic to finally experience and see what life in the richest hegemonic nation would look like. As I embarked upon my journey of the so-called “American Dream,” I eagerly counted down the days to finally acquire a college education, studying International Relations in the nation I believed was the center of all global affairs. Growing up in the Philippines, a developing economy, I saw the grim reality of how poverty can strike countless homes, leaving families and children in hungry despair. Therefore, as an economically advanced nation, I put the United States on a pedestal. In addition, American organizations, charity work, social services and government aid across the globe presented me with a benevolent image of the U.S. In my mind, out of all global issues, poverty and hunger wouldn’t, no, couldn’t be an issue for a nation that symbolizes freedom, wealth, and power — and even if it did, it would be minuscule.

Fast forward to June of 2019, I was given the opportunity to intern for the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN). In the past two weeks, this internship has allowed me to comprehend the pressing issues of hunger and poverty that exist even within this country, and the steps taken by the government to combat and alleviate the ongoing predicament. According to a fact sheet published by Bread for the World, 40 million people in 2017 were food-insecure, which means they were uncertain if they could have a next meal, and 12.5 million children lived in these food-insecure households. In an effort to subsidize families that live under disadvantaged circumstances, the government provides federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). However, there is still more work to be done.

During a June 12 event for Children’s Week by First Focus, Comic Relief USA, and the End Child Poverty U.S. campaign, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) commented, “It is possible to cut child poverty in half if we make it a national priority… it is a preventable tragedy that should not exist in this country or anywhere in this world.” More members of Congress need to acknowledge the severity of domestic poverty, and effectively come together to solve this issue.

On June 14, during the first meeting of a four-week Summer Seminar Series called “Ending Hunger at Home,” by the Congressional Hunger Center, panels from various organizations discussed steps being taken to combat domestic hunger. Monica Gonzales, the Associate Director of Government Relations for the No Kid Hungry Campaign by Share Our Strength explained, “A lot of kids are crashing. Kids can’t learn when they are hungry.” Hunger is not contained only to their homes but affects various aspects of the kid’s life, and possibly their future outcomes. These events were eye-opening, but also reassuring to see that there were numerous people taking initiative to tackle these issues.

Since 2016, I have learned various things about the U.S. As an international student, from navigating myself through the infamous 2016 election on a conservative college campus, to taking American government classes, and now to interning for an organization that deals with domestic policies in the U.S., there were times of uncertainty whether it was worth learning about American politics, given my non-American status. However, realizing that even in the wealthiest nation, there are families and children struggling to find affordable housing, or merely something to eat, my status — American or not — does not matter. Poverty and hunger are dire issues, whether here in the U.S., at home in the Philippines, or anywhere.