Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization and the largest charity headquartered in Chicago, and its President and CEO, Vicki Escarra, have been presented with the Freedom from Want Medal for 2009 from the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Institute.
Presented on Friday, September 11, 2009, in New York City, the Four Freedoms Awards serve to recall Franklin Delano Roosevelt's famous address to Congress on January 6, 1941. In that speech, FDR proposed a moral order of governance for a peaceful, prosperous and civilized world, free from the scourge of hunger and poverty.
"Each year, in the world's wealthiest nation, one in eight people do not know where they'll find their next meal," said Escarra in her acceptance speech."These are American citizens with homes, jobs and families, in communities of every description. They are our neighbors, coworkers, relatives and friends. Their stories are filled with lost jobs, stagnant wages, medical calamities and the rising costs of food and fuel. The last year, we know, has brought many more Americans to the brink."
Since Escarra's arrival in March 2006, Feeding America has undergone a renaissance, implementing an aggressive strategic plan to feed one million more people each year and conduct community outreach to increase participation in federal nutrition programs (primarily SNAP / Food Stamps) by 25 percent. Currently, its nationwide network of food banks serves more than 25 million people each year.
Under Escarra's leadership, Feeding America has increased the amount of food and grocery products secured and distributed to its network of food banks more by more than 22 percent to 2.63 billion pounds annually. Additionally, financial donations increased 63 percent to $75 million in Fiscal Year 2009. However, demand for food at agencies of local food banks around the country still continues to outpace supply.
Feeding America recently reported that the current recession and the continuing rise in unemployment are having a profound effect on the ability of local food banks to feed millions of Americans living at risk of hunger. The increase is nearly universal – 99 percent of all participating food banks reported a significant surge in demand for emergency food assistance over the past year. Food banks report that the increase is particularly driven by first-time users of the food assistance system (98 percent of food banks) and more people who have recently lost their jobs (92 percent). More than half (56 percent) of food banks reported that they are seeing more children as clients.
"I am deeply honored to accept the Freedom from Want Medal on behalf of the thousands of professionals and volunteers across the Feeding America network," added Escarra."These citizens make extraordinary contributions to their communities and country every day, and I am profoundly grateful to the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute for recognizing their work and acknowledging the realities of the 36 million Americans who live on the edge of hunger."
Each year, a single individual is selected for the FDR Four Freedoms Award which honors a lifetime of distinguished service and an unwavering commitment to these freedoms. In addition, each year, a Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Medal representing each of these values is presented to an individual whose life and work embody that ideal.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton received the FDR Four Freedoms Award. Additionally, three recipients of Medals – for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship and Freedom from Fear – were recognized for their achievements in carrying forward the wisdom and gracious spirit of the Roosevelts. Those individuals include Anthony D. Romero & the ACLU; Eboo Patel & the Interfaith Youth Core; and Pasquale J. D'Amuro, Freedom from Fear Medal, respectively.
The Institute has presented the Four Freedoms Award and the Four Freedoms Medals to some of the most distinguished Americans of our time, including Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton; Coretta Scott King; Elie Wiesel; Katharine Graham; Robert C. Byrd, and Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall. International recipients have included: H.R.H. Princess Juliana of the Netherlands, the Dalai Lama, H.M. Juan Carlos of Spain, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu, Shimon Peres, Kofi Annan and Nelson Mandela.
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