Later today, President Obama will address a joint session of Congress to talk about jobs.
Getting Americans back to work is a central ingredient to the long-term success of virtually every social program, including many supported by our clients. Record levels of poverty and unemployment make it extraordinarily difficult to reduce economic inequity and win battles to end hunger, ensure equal educational opportunities, and create a more just society.
Those of us working toward those goals will come up short unless we take a larger and longer term view that includes economic growth and job creation as a priority.
Until now the political will in Congress has been insufficient to achieve progress on jobs. It will remain so unless more of us speak out and specifically underscore the connection between our missions and the need for bold measures to address the jobs crisis. We must encourage ourselves and others in our sector to look beyond our specific silos, focus on the bigger picture, and raise our voices.
Nonprofit and advocacy organizations focused on human services need to reach out this week – to all of their stakeholders – and explain how and why concerted, bipartisan action on jobs is directly related to the mission of their organization.
What does job creation have to do with, for example, the anti-hunger programs championed by Share Our Strength?According to new numbers released yesterday morning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 14.5 percent – or 17.2 million American households – were unable to consistently put food on their tables for their families last year. This year’s rate was virtually unchanged from last year, continuing the prevalence of the highest food insecurity numbers seen in the 16 years that the government has been keeping track.
When more Americans have jobs, they are less likely to need food assistance. And enrolling more children in food programs, as we do through our No Kid Hungry campaign, helps create jobs. For example, if more eligible families participated in essential nutrition programs, states would receive up to $7 billion more from Washington. Those dollars would be spent locally to buy and deliver more food products, creating the possibility for additional jobs at virtually every level of the supply chain.
But the press coverage will be unlikely to draw any connection between the President’s address and these new USDA numbers. The importance of our work to the priority of creating jobs will not be elevated by chance. It is essential for us to understand, act, and speak out on just how intimately these two issues are tied together. And for other organizations to do the same as it relates to their own issue areas.
The national conversation this week and next will be focused almost exclusively on ideas to create jobs. If we nonprofits want to be heard, we must find ways to talk about what we do in that context.
For more analysis of debate and legislation around jobs from the perspective of nonprofits and foundations, please see Independent Sector’s coverage.
This content has been adapted from a blog piece that originally appeared on the Share Our Strength website.