Saturday, April 17, 2021

Commentary: Celebrating the spirit of Christmas

| December 24, 2020 1:10 AM

As we enter the 10th month of the COVID-19 crisis, I find myself looking forward to this Christmas season. Festivities and celebrations will undoubtedly look different, and some traditions and customary gatherings may not be feasible this year – but holiday spirit is just as important as ever.

As it is for most Christians, Christmas time is a sacred and special time for my family because it is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and the salvation of humanity. It is a time of hope and faith, community and family, and kindness and generosity. I am reminded of the words that the angel spoke to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth:

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 KJV)

Unfortunately, for too many of our neighbors, the good tidings and great joy will be replaced with anxiety and worries about putting food on the table. Food insecurity poses a particularly disheartening challenge for many families, especially at this time of year when budgets are tight and expenses are high. What’s more, under the growing strain of the pandemic’s economic shutdowns, an estimated one in six Americans are predicted to face hunger at some point this year. Food banks help meet the basic needs of millions of Americans each year, but they are subjected to increased pressures and experience heightened demand and shortages around the holidays.

One of many inspiring qualities that Central Washingtonians possess is their sense of community, responsibility, and the willingness to rise to a challenge when presented with one.

Our region is home to countless farmers, ranchers, and other producers who are ready and eager to help meet the needs of others by donating their products to food banks and other food distribution services. Frustratingly, current policies create unnecessary barriers between the food our producers grow and distribution to those who need it.

To help address this problem, I introduced the American Farms, Food Banks, and Families Act.

This bill will authorize a new position within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the “Agriculture Supply Chain Administrator,” who will be charged with developing efficiencies and addressing the key challenges within the domestic agriculture food supply chain.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the bill will establish a national database to record and report excess agricultural products and food distribution organizations in need of the available products. These steps will remove unnecessary barriers that prevent excess goods from reaching those who need them. This is an important policy solution that will address the roadblocks standing in the way of feeding our nation’s families, and I will continue to work toward its passage into law.

While there are steps that government can take to address the problem of food insecurity, each of us has an individual role to play as well. In the spirit of giving, if you are able, I encourage you to donate to or volunteer at a local food bank to share the joy this season is meant to bring with neighbors in need. When we come together as a community, we can spread blessings to those

who need them most.

As this truly unprecedented and challenging year comes to a close, my prayer is that each of us finds peace and joy during this holiday season. I wish you all a safe, blessed and very merry Christmas.

Rep. Dan Newhouse represents Washington's 4th District in the U.S. House Representatives.