DEMOCRAT CORNER: Hunger in the Land O’ Plenty

By: Mara Dolan

Mara DolanTurning on CNN after a lovely Valentine’s dinner on the town with the blossoming young woman who is my daughter, I was appalled at what I saw. Hundreds of people stranded on an ocean liner, their vacation ruined, while news cameras recorded every moment for a rapt nation, grateful to be snug in their homes. What appalled me even more than the plight of the stranded vacationers was the amount of news coverage they were getting. So I tweeted.

“I am really sorry a lot of people had a bad cruise. In Massachusetts, one out of every 9 children goes hungry. Cover that, CNN. #carnival”

Over 1,385 retweets later, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one appalled. Massachusetts! We’re the Athens of America, the home of Harvard and MIT. We’re the state with the highest number of college graduates, the best public schools, and the lowest divorce rate. We sent Elizabeth Warren to the United States Senate to fight for the middle class. But Massachusetts is near the bottom of the country on income inequality. In a state where our 8th graders come in second in science and sixth in math test scores, not just in the nation but in the world, one out of every 9 children is going hungry.

Massachusetts is also the state where a Wellesley father just made front page news for paying his daughter $200 to give up Facebook. We’re the home state of Grover Norquist, who grew up in wealthy Weston, and who magically thinks that if only the government didn’t collect taxes all of America would be rich like Weston, and no one would go hungry.

I know Weston. I live two towns over, and I campaigned there when I ran for state senate last year. Weston is a lot like Lincoln, and I campaigned there too. Sitting in a stunningly beautiful multi-million dollar home nestled on impeccably, artfully landscaped grounds, I explained my platform on jobs, healthcare, and education. When I finished, the hostess looked at me quizzically and asked, “But how would that affect me?” These are not the people who go on Carnival cruises, let alone get a chance to see how the bottom 20% don’t eat.

I don’t think she didn’t care; I think she didn’t know. How could she, with CNN thinking a stranded ocean liner is Big News? What was so compelling about this story? Why on earth is a group of good people suffering for a few days a bigger story than the one out of five American households with children going hungry? Or the 260,000 good children going hungry in one of the leading states in America? Isn’t it a bigger story that despite Massachusetts’ advances in education, health care, technology and marriage equality we can’t put food on all our children’s tables? If it’s this bad in Massachusetts, it’s much worse in other parts of America. Why isn’t CNN covering that?

Over 50 Million Americans are hungry. In Mississippi, almost one out of every five people is hungry. Texas and Arkansas are close behind. Hunger is a solvable problem, but not if we spend hours covering a dysfunctional cruise ship instead of showing the good people of affluent America how the other half really lives.

I did not mean my tweet to make light of the suffering of the unfortunate people who set sail expecting a wonderful week of vacation on the open sea, only to find themselves living without basic facilities, finding their trip anything but fun-filled and relaxing. It must have been awful, and I hope they get their money back, their vacation days restored, and all the hot showers and full plates they want.

Shouldn’t everyone in the richest country in the world have that? Don’t we have enough to go around? Actually, we do. Across America, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but by poverty. Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern is trying to change all that. He’s called upon the White House to end hunger now, and to host a conference on food and nutrition. The White House has not convened a summit on hunger since Richard Nixon did so in 1969. Closer to home, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wants to raise $1 Billion to invest in transportation and education. By doing so, we’ll lay the foundation for long-term prosperity, and provide good-paying jobs that will help to end childhood hunger in the state.

Was the stranded ocean liner news? Yes. But the real story isn’t the hunger of cruise passengers facing empty buffet tables, challenging though that must have been. The real story is that in one of the leading states in the wealthiest nation in the world, one out of every nine children goes hungry, and it’s much worse in Mississippi, Texas, and Arkansas. Americans are going hungry, and we can solve this problem. Cover that, CNN.

 Mara Dolan is an attorney, a former candidate for State Senate and the producer and host of “Twilight Talk” on WCAP, Mondays 7-9pm. You can follow her on Twitter @MaraDolan.You can email her at