Leaders from the nation’s leading agriculture and hunger-relief organizations have joined to counter recent attacks accusing U.S. agriculture of being a culprit in U.S. obesity rates. They also sought to refocus the debate on the lingering challenge of hunger in America.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman and America’s Second Harvest President Bob Forney told reporters that while obesity is a serious concern for all Americans, critics often fail to realize that obesity and hunger co-exist. National Hunger Awareness day is June 3.

“Critics falsely say U.S. agriculture is a cause for the nation’s weight gain, and they incorrectly claim an over-abundance of affordable food is the reason the U.S. population is becoming increasingly fat,” said Stallman. “To put the growing hunger problem in perspective, while hundreds of attendees at a media event on obesity listen to experts speak about having too much food at the nation’s disposal, approximately 13 million children will go hungry.”

Some of this activity was in response to Time and ABC's Summit on Obesity occurring this week in Williamsburg, Va. Also, ABC is running a week-long series on its television news venues. “Although Time and ABC aren’t focusing on it, hunger and obesity do go hand in hand,” Stallman said. He urged critics to stop pointing fingers at agriculture and find real solutions to the growing obesity and hunger problems.

“It is a real stretch to blame farm programs for obesity,” Stallman said. “It's also outrageous that U.S. farmers are being made one of the scapegoats for obesity.”

According to Second Harvest’s Forney, obesity is a problem, but it is not the only food problem affecting Americans. “The obesity angle is very objectionable. It’s time we just talk straight about farm issues and hunger issues. Trying to use obesity to discuss technical agricultural economic issues is a lame way to getting at the subject matter,” he said.

“Speaking for 40 million people who don’t have a voice, who have one day–  National Hunger Awareness Day– the topic ought to be their plight-not obesity and certainly not obesity as it relates to food being too cheap and too accessible,” said Forney.

Both representatives said they would highlight National Hunger Awareness Day by holding food drives, volunteering in their local food banks, donating food and getting the word out that hunger, rather than obesity, should be our national focus as long as any American child goes to bed without proper nourishment.