×

Companies need to step in to help feed families hurt by budget cuts

  • There are 42 million people in the U.S. who are "food insecure," meaning they don't know for sure where their next meal will come from.
  • Proposed budget cuts could be devastating for millions of Americans who rely on federal support to put food on the table.
  • It's times like these that the private sector and social sectors need to stand together to help our vulnerable kids and families.
Residents receive free food at mobile food pantry near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 26, 2016 in Jacamba Hot Springs, California. The Feeding America truck delivers to the border town's needy residents twice a month.
Getty Images
Residents receive free food at mobile food pantry near the U.S.-Mexico border on September 26, 2016 in Jacamba Hot Springs, California. The Feeding America truck delivers to the border town's needy residents twice a month.

The United States is a nation built on the values of equal opportunity, hard work and self-determination. It prides itself on the belief that in this land of opportunity any woman, man and child should be able to reach their full potential. The challenge is to create the environment in which people can thrive. That includes a strong social compact in which government, business and the social (non-profit) sector invest in the well-being of individuals and families and ensure pathways to opportunity and success. At the most basic level that begins with ensuring access to life's basic needs, including quality, affordable food. Sadly, this is not the reality for all too many Americans.

Despite their best efforts, millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. Many people across the country are working two or even three jobs to put food on the tables and keep a roof over their heads. A report supported by City Harvest found that, in New York City alone, over 2.7 million men, women and children face hunger. Across the United States, 42 million people are "food insecure" — meaning that they don't know with certainty where their next meal will come from, if at all.

That includes more than 13 million children in the U.S. who live in food insecure households. Good nutrition is vital for their health and cognitive development, and needed for each child to reach his or her full potential. The coming months are especially challenging, as only one in six of the millions of children who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals at school receive that benefit over the summer.

"With so many pressing issues at stake, we cannot lose sight of ensuring our neighbors aren't facing one of the worst uncertainties imaginable – not knowing if they will have enough food to eat."

The proposed federal budget calls for dramatic cuts to similar social programs that help the most vulnerable people in our nation. For example, potential cuts of $193 billion to SNAP (formerly food stamps) will deeply impact the 43 million women, children, men and seniors the program currently serves. With so many pressing issues at stake, we cannot lose sight of ensuring our neighbors aren't facing one of the worst uncertainties imaginable – not knowing if they will have enough food to eat.

It is times like these when we need the private and social sectors to stand together to help our most vulnerable kids and their families. That is why Starbucks and other businesses are partnering with Feeding America® — and its nationwide network of food banks and food rescue organizations, including City Harvest — to create programs like FoodShare. The program has set a goal to eliminate any potential food waste by rescuing 100 percent of available-to-donate food from their U.S. stores and getting it in the hands of the millions of New Yorkers and Americans who are facing hunger.

Food insecurity prevents the young girl in Harlem from focusing in school because of an empty stomach; causes the young mother in San Antonio to miss multiple meals in order to feed her child; and forces the grandfather in Chicago to scrape by to pay for medicine, which he prioritizes ahead of his next meal. Communities, families and children cannot thrive on empty stomachs. We must continue to ensure that people have access to nutritious meals that give them the fuel they need to thrive. We need the commitment of our friends, families and neighbors to support one another in good times and bad, and be willing to share not only our food but also the American dream.

Kevin Johnson is the CEO of Starbucks, Jilly Stephens is the CEO of City Harvest and Diana Aviv is the CEO of Feeding America.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

Watch: Big upside in Starbucks?