NOTE: This op-ed is a template.  Please do not use it word for word.  Please do make it appropriate for and reflective of your community.

Draft Template OPED for Participating JCRCs

Every spring, Jews celebrate the holiday of Passover, declaring in our Seders the words from the Haggadah, “Let all who are hungry come and eat; let all who are in need come share our Passover.” This year, this statement is taking on a whole new meaning. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger are working with communities, including (Name of Community) to organize “Child Nutrition Seders,” across the country, translating Passover’s message of freedom and renewal into an opportunity to end childhood hunger in America.

We have transformed the Seder plate, giving dual meaning to each of the traditional items it holds. Symbols such as the bitter herb, which traditionally reminds Jews of the bitterness of slavery, this year, will awaken us to the bitterness suffered by others. The green vegetable, traditionally reminds us that it is spring in Israel, will now also highlight the importance of good nutrition and the disparity in access to healthy food.

Today, one in every four families cannot afford enough food for their children.  This translates to 13 million children living in food insecure households.  Nearly 80 percent of those children are forced to rely on low-cost, less-nutritious food, and more than half rarely receive a balanced meal. President Obama has set an ambitious goal for the nation to end childhood hunger by 2015.  This goal is feasible and is something we should all work together to make into a reality. 

The (Name of Community) Jewish community is doing its part.  In addition to joining JCPA and MAZON’s national effort to raise awareness and encourage activism through our Passover Seders, we have (Discuss more what you are specifically doing, not only through the childhood nutrition Seders but in general to defeat childhood hunger).

Congress has already done a great deal to help defeat poverty and childhood hunger. Over the last few years, it has enacted legislation to increase funding for food stamps, it has provided additional funding for school breakfast and lunch programs and it has increased access for those who need a well balanced meal the most. However, for our nation to meet the President’s goal to end childhood hunger within the next decade, it will take a unified effort from us all.

Currently, Congress is considering legislation that will put our nation further on the road to meeting the President’s goal, the Child Nutrition Bill. This bill is the most important anti-hunger legislation that Congress will consider this session.  In its simplest form, the bill authorizes funding for school breakfast and lunch programs as well as summer and after-school feeding programs for low income students.

The successes of the school breakfast and lunch programs are widely known; they are often the only means by which low-income children receive balanced meals.  After-school and summer nutritional programs are just as critical. Just because the final school bell has rung, it does not mean our children should not have a well balanced and nutritious meal available to them.

Although few will deny the importance of these and other childhood nutrition programs, as the economy continues to weaken, our Congressional leaders will unfortunately be tasked with making a number of tough spending decisions. However, our current economic woes should not deter our moral obligation to the least fortunate among us.

Passover is a time when Jews are specifically called upon to remember what it was like to live in bondage. This enhances our appreciation of the various freedoms we enjoy. Maybe this is why the Torah emphasizes the importance of providing aid for our neighbors in need. Leviticus says, “When you reap the harvests of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges… You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger.” As our economy continues to decline and more families find it difficult to make ends meet, the Jewish message of lending a helping hand to others in need could not be any more important.