Radio Address: Alfond says, ‘On Thanksgiving, let’s commit to helping hungry Mainers’

Posted: November 26, 2015 | Front Page, Senator Alfond, Weekly Radio Address

Hi there. This is Justin Alfond, the Democratic Leader in the Maine Senate.

Today, like you, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving with my family. Rachael and I will gather around the table with our children and our loved ones. We’ll count our blessings, from our good health to the roof over our heads. And yes, we’ll eat a lot of good food, and we’ll be thankful for that too.

Meanwhile, some of my fellow Portland residents will be sharing a Thanksgiving meal at the Preble Street Resource Center. There, a dedicated group of volunteers will provide more than 1,000 meals to homeless and low-income Mainers.

By the time you hear this, volunteers from Food AND Medicine in Brewer have already distributed 59,000 pounds of locally grown food for the holiday. That bounty filled enough Thanksgiving baskets to feed 8,000 to 10,000 people in families all over Eastern Maine. They would otherwise have gone without.

With food and gift drives, donations to local charities and food pantries, Mainers dig deep to help their fellow citizens — especially during the holiday season. But we know that hunger, homelessness and poverty affect too many Maine families not just on Thanksgiving, but 365 days a year.

It goes without saying that organizations like Preble Street and Food AND Medicine deserve our support all year, not just around the holidays. But it will take more than charity to ensure all Mainers have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

It starts with making sure all Mainers have enough to eat on every day of the week.

Hunger is rising disproportionately in our state. The problem doesn’t grab headlines, but it quietly affects thousands of our friends and neighbors every day. Maine is one of just 14 states with a food insecurity rate higher than the national average. Hungry Mainers miss about 36 million meals a year.

The problem is acute in our schools, where more than 86,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. But despite being eligible, many children don’t receive the help they need. Hungry kids are at risk for underperforming at school, which can have ripple effects once the student enters the workforce.

That’s why I submitted bills to expand access to food in our schools and strengthen after-school meal programs offered through organizations such as the YMCA.

When students can stop worrying where their next meal will come from, they can focus on their schoolwork. That means a brighter future, and a better shot at breaking free from poverty. That’s a goal we can all share.

Later tonight, we’ll be clearing the plates from the dinner table and watching football. But soon, I’ll be back in Augusta, back at work for my district and for Maine people. I’m confident that by working together, Democrats and Republicans can make sure no Maine child goes hungry.

This is Senator Justin Alfond. Thanks for listening, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.