'People were running out of food, that was the most common,'' Simon told a crowd gathered Sunday for church service at Luther Crest, an Allentown retirement community. ''But I found the harder we worked at it, the further behind we got.''
Out of the pain and suffering came Bread for the World, which 35 years later has become one of the country's leading citizens advocacy groups, boasting more than 60,000 members nationally united by a common mission to prevent people from going hungry.
Simon's message, delivered as a call-to-action sermon to lobby Congress for better hunger and poverty prevention, comes as more Americans struggle amid the economic downturn to put food on the table.
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics released this month, about 49 million people, or 14.6 percent of U.S. households, were ''food insecure'' at some time during the past year, the most since tracking began in 1995.
The department defines ''food insecure'' as those without access to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.
''I hope it's a short-term crisis, and we've got to deal with that,'' said Simon, 79, brother of the late Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois. ''I think it will improve with the economy, but meanwhile we have to take some meaningful action.''
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