In 1993 the Congressional Hunger Center (CHC), a nonprofit focused on making international and domestic hunger a priority for U.S. policymakers, was formed following a hunger strike by then Representative Tony Hall (D-Ohio). Now, 20 years later, the organization is still working to educate a generation of leaders to fight hunger and poverty both in the U.S. and abroad.
Hall was one of a trio of representatives (two Democrats and one Republican) that formed the House Select Committee on Hunger in 1983 to work on finding real solutions to global hunger. The Select Committee on Hunger operated for ten years until the House of Representatives allowed it and a number of other Select Committees to expire. In response Hall went on a 22 day fast that coalesced bipartisan support around hunger issues, and ultimately lead to the formation of the bipartisan CHC.
According to the CHC’s website, the organization’s mission is “to train and inspire leaders who work to end hunger, and to advocate public policies that create a food secure world. We strive to be a leader in the movement to ensure access to food as a basic human right for all people. We create and nurture a community of innovative and inspiring leaders who act as change agents, bridging the gap between grassroots efforts and national and international public policy to provide access to nutritious, affordable and culturally appropriate food.”
CHC has launched a number of initiatives in the U.S. and overseas since its founding. The organization received its first Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) grant in 1994 to help establish a national anti-hunger leadership program. In 1995 the organization expanded its scope overseas with a humanitarian assistance initiative in the wake of the Rwandan genocide. The organization also secured a grant from the U.S. Institute of Peace to conduct humanitarian emergencies research in Bosnia around the same time.
CHC also administers two fellowship programs, the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows and the Bill Emerson National Fellowship. The programs were named for founding Congressional members of the House Select Committee on Hunger and the CHC respectively. Both were established with Congressional funds allocated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1999. CHC partners with some universities, such as Carnegie Mellon University’s John Heinz III College for fellows from the two programs to support their degrees.
Both fellowship programs support placement of fellows with organizations either in the U.S. or in developing countries, as well as provide some training.
– Liza Casabona