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In the United States, there are 48.8 million Americans (32.6 million adults of whom 6 million are seniors, and 16.2 million children – equaling 16.7% of all American men, women, and children – nearly 1 in 6 – 14.5% of all American households) who are “food insecure,” defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a “lack of access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

There are many government programs and charitable organizations that seek to address the “temporary emergency” that these 48.8 million Americans face every day. MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger reports that in FY2011, the Federal government spent $94.8 billion in food and nutrition assistance programs, and America’s largest hunger-relief organizations spent $1.2 billion, and still nearly 49 million Americans today are food insecure. Clearly, neither the government nor charitable organizations have been able to feed all those in need.

During the Passover Seder we say “Let all who are hungry come and eat!”

How are we to respond to this mitzvah?

The answer isn’t just to give of our charitable dollars to the poor and hungry in our neighborhoods and communities, but to support local, state and national hunger policies that seek to to make it easier for poor working families and individuals to get the food and nutrition that they need.

MAZON offers a reading for our Seder meals with specifics on what we can actually do in the fulfillment of the mitzvah to feed the hungry.

Ha Lachma Anya

This is the bread of poverty and persecution that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. As it says in the Torah, “Seven days shall you eat matzot, the bread of poverty and persecution so that you may remember that you were a slave in Egypt.”

Let all who are hungry, come and eat.

Let all who are in need, come and share the Pesach meal.

At its most fundamental level, the Passover Seder is meant to remind us that we know firsthand the suffering and degradation faced by those who are poor. We know the sharp pain of hunger, the slavery that is poverty and persecution; and we also know that this memory, this shared experience, compels us to act.

Ha Lachma Anya. This is the bread of poverty.

17 million children face a constant struggle against hunger, and hungry kids can’t learn or grow to their full potential.

Let every hungry child come and eat, with a Reauthorized Child Nutrition Act that improves and expands school meals and summer, afterschool and childcare nutrition programs.

Ha Lachma anya. This is the bread of poverty.

Six million seniors face food insecurity and 35% of seniors must make the impossible choice between paying for food and paying for heat/utilities.

Let every hungry senior come and eat, with a Reauthorized Older Americans Act that increases funding for Meals on Wheels and senior congregant feeding programs.

Ha Lachma Anya. This is the bread of poverty.

49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table and feed their families.

Let every hungry family come and eat, with adequate funding for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program).

Ha Lachma Anya. This is the bread of poverty.

This is Passover, we say Dayeinu.

We have had enough.

This year, we will work together so that all who are hungry can finally come and eat.”

Write your congressional representatives and ask them to support the tReauthorized Child Nutrition Act, Reauthorized Older Americans Act, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program).

For more information, see Mazon’s website: http://www.mazon.org – Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger is the only organization in American Jewish life devoted solely to the issue of hunger.

Chag Pesach Sameah!