Congressman Pete Stark: Friend of the Hungry

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Photo courtesy of Pete Stark
Congressman Pete Stark sponsored a bill to make sure surplus food was donated to the hungry.

Since he entered Congress in 1973, Fortney H. (Pete) Stark has earned consistently high ratings from organizations representing education, labor, women, senior citizens, environmentalists, and consumers. The California Democrat has also succeeded in effecting a prisoner-exchange treaty between the United States and Mexico and an amendment correcting the “marriage tax” penalty. And recently, Stark and seven other Representatives issued a joint resolution (HCR 381) which addresses the plight of a growing number of malnourished Americans, people who find themselves in the midst of an increase in unemployment and a decrease in appropriations for social services.

The measure, which cites a 1977 General Accounting Office study revealing that Americans waste 137 million tons of food each year, proposes that legislation such as the Good Samaritan and Donor Liability laws be enacted in states and municipalities where they don’t already exist. This would encourage private groups and wholesale and retail markets to help charities distribute, to those in need, edibles that would otherwise be disposed of. In addition, HCR 381 calls on the federal government to take steps to allocate surplus food to our nation’s hungry.

To promote the legislation, Congressman Pete Stark and one of the other supporters of the resolution, Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio), participated in an early morning “garbage run” last July, which was conducted by representatives of the Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV) — a nonprofit organization whose members accumulate discarded groceries to feed the 300-500 indigent people who visit their Washington, D.C. soup kitchen every day. The scavengers spent the morning sifting through supermarket dumpsters in the rain, in order to retrieve foodstuffs that would later be served at a Congressional luncheon catered by CCNV.

On the day of the “Hunger in the Land of Plenty” repast, about 30 members of Congress gathered in a Capitol Hill meeting room to enjoy a meal of crab quiche, cold cuts, green beans with mushrooms and bacon, potatoes au gratin, raw vegetable salad, fresh fruit salad with yogurt dressing, and boysenberry shortcake — a feast prepared entirely with discards gleaned from the trash bins of commercial food outlets. The elaborate spread underscored the enormous daily loss of comestibles which could — without requiring an increase in government subsidies — feed many of America’s hungry. Stark and fellow supporters of HCR 381 are calling on our nation to take action against this food waste.