It’s not every day congressmen and lobbyists rally together for a common cause.
But the Hoops for Youth Foundation partnered last month with the American League of Lobbyists to launch its first Thanksgiving food drive, which concludes Wednesday with a public event from 9 a.m. to noon on Capitol Hill.
Members of Congress, aides and community residents are invited to the foyer of the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday to donate nonperishable goods to the Capital Area Food Bank, a local nonprofit organization that distributes 37.5 million meals annually to District residents.
Paul A. Miller of Miller/Wenhold Capitol Strategies, the chairman of the Hoops for Youth Foundation and an architect of the food drive, sees it as an opportunity to get more people in the influence industry on board with philanthropy.
“[It’s] one of the things lobbying firms are bad at and it’s not something we like to promote,” Miller said.
For its part, the food bank is appreciative of the helping hands.
“Here in the Washington metro area — Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, D.C. and northern [Virginia] — our congressional members, both senators and representatives, are very supportive of hunger relief and the work of the Capital Area Food Bank,” Brian Banks, director of public policy at Capital Area Food Bank, said in an email to CQ Roll Call. “A number of them have visited and volunteered at our food distribution centers in [northeast] D.C. and northern [Virginia] and we appreciate their support to help us reach 500,000 of our neighbors who are at risk of hunger in the region.”
All donations will help the food bank in its mission to feed the District of Columbia’s 700,000 underfed.
Since 2005, Washington’s food hardship rates have increased, in part because of unemployment and a lack of adequate grocery stories in select wards of the city.
The capital ranked second in the nation for the highest child food insecurity rate. About 30 percent of children in D.C. are in food-insecure households, according to the group Feeding America’s most recent Map the Meal Gap project.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., the House Hunger Caucus chairman, is scheduled to address the attendees at 10 a.m. and will be joined by Democratic Reps. André Carson of Indiana, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Alcee L. Hastings of Florida.
“This is a great opportunity for the Hill community to come together and make the holiday season a bit brighter for needy families. The Capital Area Food Bank does tremendous work, and they deserve our help,” McGovern said in an email.
The road to the food drive started with Hoops for Youth co-founders Miller and former Rep. Jack Quinn, R-N.Y., and their desire to provide for at-risk youths.
“Jack and I do a lot of volunteer work. This was kind of a way for us to give back to them. We started off doing the basketball game; raised $1.5 million. We decided we need to do a little bit more and teamed up with the [Hunger Caucus],” Miller said.
District associations and law firms have been critical to the success the food drive has already seen. The 15 companies that joined the campaign three weeks ago have been accepting goods since the last week of October.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.