A national coalition of anti-poverty groups, including the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, are calling on Lester Holt, moderator of the first presidential debate, to ask candidates about their plans to “end hunger” and “alleviate poverty.”
On Monday, Vote to End Hunger, a national coalition of 165 anti-hunger and poverty groups, announced plans to deliver nearly 600,000 petition signatures to Holt this week, urging the NBC anchor to question the candidates on poverty and hunger issues at the Sept. 26 debate at Hofstra University.
“Ending hunger must become a national priority,” said Rebecca Middleton, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance to End Hunger, in a teleconference with reporters.
Middleton, quoting from data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said more than 42 million Americans, including 13.1 million children, did not have consistent access to food in 2015.
The coalition also plans to deliver petitions to the Manhattan campaign offices of Republican Donald Trump and the Brooklyn campaign headquarters of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The petition wants Holt to ask the candidates: “If elected, what will you do to end hunger, alleviate poverty and create opportunity in the U.S. and worldwide?”
Gwen O’Shea, president of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, a Melville nonprofit that advocates on behalf of the interests of low-income residents, said the suburban setting of the first debate in Hempstead, offers the opportunity for both candidates to address growing poverty rates in the nation’s suburbs.
O’Shea said there is a common misconception that poverty only impacts those living in urban areas, but noted that census figures indicate there are some 16.4 million people living in poverty in U.S. suburbs.
The Presidential Commission on Debates, which is in charge of organizing the debates, and Holt’s representatives at NBC News did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Monday.