The Commission's Work
Who We Are
Congressional leaders from both parties appointed the Commission members: three each by the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader (John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Harry Reid, D-Nevada, respectively, at that time); and two each by the House and Senate Minority Leaders (Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, respectively, at that time). We then selected two of our members as co-chairs to guide our work—Dr. Mariana Chilton and Mr. Robert Doar. Our goal was to develop recommendations to Congress and the USDA that had the unanimous, bipartisan support of all our members.
- Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH, is an Associate Professor at Drexel University School of Public Health and Director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. She directs multiple research studies on the impact of public policy on food insecurity and health and wellbeing among families with young children. (Reid appointee)
- Spencer Coates is President of Houchens Industries, Inc., and serves on its Board of Directors. He joined the Houchens family of companies in October 2003, after retiring from BKD, LLP, a national public accounting firm where he had spent 30 years serving in various capacities. (McConnell appointee)
- Robert Doar is the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies how improved federal policies and programs can reduce poverty and provide opportunities for vulnerable Americans. Previously, he served as Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration. (Boehner appointee)
- Jeremy Everett is the founding Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) at Baylor University, a capacity building project that develops and implements strategies to alleviate hunger through research, policy analysis, education, and community organizing. Prior to THI, Mr. Everett worked for international and community development organizations as a teacher, religious leader, community organizer, and farmer. (Boehner appointee)
- Susan Finn, PhD, is the CEO of the global consultancy Finn/Parks & Associates and a recognized leader and respected communicator in the food, nutrition, and health arena. She is a leader in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is committed to advancing nutrition research and education. (Boehner appointee)
- Deborah A. Frank, MD, is a child health researcher and the inaugural incumbent of a newly established Pediatric Professorship in Child Health and Well Being at Boston University School of Medicine. She began working at Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center) in 1981. In 1984, she founded the Failure to Thrive Program, now called the Grow Clinic for Children, where she still practices. (Pelosi appointee)
- Cherie Jamason is President and CEO of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, a nationally recognized anti-hunger organization and recent Feeding America Food Bank of the Year. She established the Nevada Child Nutrition Initiative implementing summer food and afterschool meal programs for low income children throughout Nevada, and was instrumental in crafting Nevada’s first State Food Security Plan and creating Bridges to a Thriving Nevada, which takes on poverty and financial instability. (Reid appointee)
- Billy Shore is the founder and CEO of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America through its No Kid Hungry campaign. He is also the author of four books, including The Cathedral Within, and chair of Community Wealth Partners, which helps change agents solve social problems. (Pelosi appointee)
- Russell Sykes is an independent consultant working on multiple federal and state projects focusing on job search in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid reform, Social Security Disability, and workforce engagement. He was the former Deputy Commissioner for New York State’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance where he was responsible for the administration of SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, welfare-to-work, and multiple other public benefit programs. (McConnell appointee)
Since May 2014, we have met monthly in person or by phone to carry out our work. In addition, we have held regular meetings with representatives of the USDA.
We invited 83 experts from government, industry, universities, and nonprofits to give us testimony, and received responses from 80 of them. In 2015, we traveled to eight cities across America to visit programs working to alleviate hunger, including government, nonprofit, community, and faith-based programs. We held public hearings in seven of those cities, where we heard from 102 members of the public. Altogether, we received testimony from 182 people, including experts, recipients of assistance, and members of the public.
Not surprisingly, we gained wisdom from people from all walks of life. We listened to corporate executives who have forged public-private partnerships to reduce dependence on government programs, physicians who have treated children lacking adequate nutrition, state officials tasked with implementing large federal assistance programs while also preventing fraud and abuse, and new Americans in search of a safer and better life for their children. In schools and community centers we witnessed breakfast-in-the-classroom programs, nutrition education and cooking classes, summer meals programs, and emergency food distribution.
We visited Oakland, California, and Albany, New York, sizable cities located in two of the country’s largest states, and Portland, Maine, in a northeastern state with high levels of hunger. We visited Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Altheimer in Arkansas, because Arkansas has one of the highest rates of hunger in the country, and we wanted to observe what local authorities and organizations were doing to address it. We visited immigrant populations in El Paso, Texas, and American Indian (Pueblo) communities participating in a Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations program near Albuquerque, New Mexico. In Indianapolis, Indiana, we visited a public-private partnership that works on multiple fronts to reduce hunger. In Washington DC, we observed an example of a successful summer feeding program and learned about nonprofit organizations offering job training and health services along with food assistance.
Although these visits offered only a snapshot of people’s experiences, they provided insights into the available public and private assistance programs, and revealed the need for continued improvements on both fronts for programs to function more effectively. We also learned firsthand about the root causes and consequences of hunger. Many of the causes are associated with poverty and other economic and social factors, and poverty itself has multiple causes. Solutions to these larger issues are beyond the bounds of our mandate, but we encourage Congress and the President to make them a greater focus, as they lay the foundation for eliminating hunger across the nation.
To support us in our efforts, the Secretary of Agriculture selected, through a competitive bidding process, an independent, nonprofit research organization, RTI International, to conduct a current and prospective review of the literature on hunger, offer independent recommendations for reducing hunger, and provide us with ongoing research support and technical expertise. RTI prepared research-based “white papers” on questions posed by commissioners and potential solutions to hunger. RTI also created a Commission website, which houses our activities, minutes from our meetings, and written testimonies and transcriptions and recordings of the hearings. Commissioners also contributed relevant peer-reviewed papers and other primary sources, some of which were posted on our website.
Because our own backgrounds and disciplines are diverse, we often saw and learned the same things but reached different conclusions. We have sought to set those differences aside in favor of reporting on what we did agree upon, and we have synthesized it to present an overall picture of hunger in America today. At a time when our nation’s politics are so partisan and polarized, we hope the unanimity that we demonstrate in this report will give its conclusions and recommendations extra weight.
This report takes all of the information we collected through this process and synthesizes it to present our collective view of hunger in America today, and culminates in a set of recommendations to Congress, the USDA, and others committed to decreasing hunger in America. Eliminating hunger, as we define it, is possible, but doing so demands leadership and strategic vision. In light of that challenge, we crafted our recommendations to be targeted, meaningful, and realistic. We hope that Congress, the USDA, and the rest of the Executive Branch respond thoroughly, thoughtfully, and urgently.
Sites Visited by the Commission
- May 13
- Hunger rate: 4.9%
- Public hearing (Speakers: 8 invited, 7 public)
Little Rock, AR
- May 19
- Hunger rate: 8.1%
- Public hearing (Speakers: 9 invited, 5 public)
- Site visits: Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Little Rock, AR; Arkansas Food Bank food distribution, Altheimer, AR; Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Cooking Matters Class, Little Rock, AR; Jericho Way Day Center, Little Rock, AR; MLK Interdistrict Magnet Elementary School, Little Rock, AR; East Side Baptist Church food pantry, Pine Bluff, AR; TOPPS after-school snack program, Pine Bluff, AR
- June 10
- Hunger rate: 6.4%
- Site visits: Elanco ENOUGH movement food insecurity initiatives
- June 15
- Hunger rate: 5.1%
- Public hearing (Speakers: 13 invited, 11 public)
- June 23-24
- Hunger rate: 4.6%
- Round table with community stakeholders and state officials (Speakers: 6 invited)
- Site visits: Acoma Food Distribution Program, Pueblo of Acoma, NM; San Luis Rey Parish, Chamberino, NM (former colonia)
El Paso, TX
- June 24-25
- Hunger rate: 6.2%
- Public hearing (Speakers: 11 invited, 13 public)
- Site visits: Anthony Independent School District Summer Meals Program; El Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe; Socorro Ramirez Community Center (meeting with colonia residents)
- July 30
- Hunger rate: 7.5%
- Public hearing (Speakers: 14 invited, 15 public)
- July 14
- Hunger rate: 4.9%
- Public hearing (Speakers: 9 invited, 27 public)
- Site visits: Anacostia Library Summer Meal Program; Bread for the City; DC Central Kitchen