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Hunger in America

The numbers are staggering - more than 50 million Americans, including 17 million children, were "food insecure" in 2009.

As Katie said to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the phrase "food insecure" sounds like a euphemism. It really means those people were hungry, and at some point in the year they didn't have enough food and didn't have the money to buy it.

It's the most basic of human necessities. No child should go unfed in a nation with such wealth and resources, but, sadly, too many do.

In this week's webshow, Katie examines Hunger in America with Secretary Vilsack and two leaders of nonprofit organizations working to curb the problem at grassroots levels. Vicki Escarra leads Feeding America, the country's biggest domestic relief charity, and Bill Ayres is the co-founder of WhyHunger.

(Scroll down to watch the full interview.)

During the interview, which I hope you will watch, the guests discussed how the clients they see have changed. Many working families have needed assistance during this tumultuous time for the economy. As unemployment and underemployment rose, so did the need for food assistance. 42 million Americans have turned to food stamps and 20 million children are fed through school lunch programs.

Those programs help families get by, and they are necessary, but they are not the silver bullet for food insecurity. A more permanent solution is obviously jobs and better wages for working families.

Visit the websites of Feeding America and WhyHunger to find out how you can help, and, as Secretary Vilsack said, if you are in position to give a man or woman a job, do it. Increased hiring and decreased unemployment will go much further to solving the hunger problem than a can of peas...but those are welcome, too.

The part of this show that stayed with me was the final answer from Vicki Escarra. Katie asked the guests if there is a face, a person whom they've met or worked with, who encapsulates the issue for them.

Vicki told us about an 8-year-old boy who came to school with a box filled with his toys. His mother lost her job, and he wanted to know where he could sell his favorite things to be able to help her out.

Let's do the work for him, and for any child in this country who needs a hand.

Mother Teresa once said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

If we all fed just one, there would be no more hunger in America.