By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Local anti-hunger advocates marshalled their forces today at the third annual Philadelphia Hunger Symposium, co-moderated by KYW’s Cherri Gregg.

Hunger cuts across all lines we draw and no zip code is immune, noted keynote speaker lawyer Nikki Johnson-Huston.

“Hungry people are all around you,” she said.  “Hungry people aren’t someone else.  They’re all of us.  They’re our neighbors — our neighbors.  They’re our friends. They’re our families.  And I think there’s a lot of really good business reasons why we have to invest in people.”

Johnson-Huston says she remembers all too well not getting enough food as a child, and says a growling stomach was only the beginning:

“The emotional difficulty I had dealing with that and… I like to say being hungry kept me ‘in the today’ and it made it very difficult for me to think about what I wanted to do with my tomorrows, so it’s very limiting.”

For that reason, she says, conquering hunger is also an economic necessity, allowing a robust, clear-thinking workforce.

And Philabundance head Bill Clark says this is a silent epidemic that generates heated debate about how much tax money should go to fight it.

“Our leaders don’t understand just how fundamental the problems are, and how many people in the United States are living one or two paychecks away from needing services at a food cupboard,” he said today.

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