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South Dakota Bread Team Talks Poverty With Elected Officials

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Photo: Ninth grade student Abby reads her essay on poverty-focused development assistance to Karen Kunze, South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson's staffer on foreign operations. (Courtesy of South Dakota Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

Last week, Bread members in South Dakota met with local and D.C.-based staff of Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) to discuss poverty-focused development assistance. Senator Johnson sits on a key committee—appropriations—which sets vital funding for programs that provide long-term poverty-reducing strategies abroad. Poverty-focused aid makes up less than one percent of the federal budget and must be approved by Congress each year in the appropriations process. The Senate FY13 appropriations-funded programs are critical to ending poverty abroad, and South Dakota Bread members asked Sen. Johnson to protect those proposed levels in any future budget negotiations.

Staff Assistant Bret Hoffman met the group of 10 Bread members at the senator's Sioux Falls office. When Bread member Cathy Brechtelsbauer called to schedule the meeting she asked if the office could teleconference with the Washington D.C., legislative assistant, Karen Kunze, who deals directly with foreign aid. Many local offices are equipped to conference with D.C. By conferencing, constituents can talk directly to key staff members about the issues they work on. This method of communication gets the right information to the right people.

The advocacy team included a ninth grader named Abby, who won last year’s Human Rights Day essay contest, which Bread for the World South Dakota sponsored.  Abby read aloud her essay, which  pointed out the fact that $1.3 billion people live on no more than $1.25 a day and that agriculture is an essential part of the solution to poverty. Staff Assistant Hoffman appreciated Abby’s grasp of the interrelation between poverty and human rights.

Others Bread activists shared stories, as well. A college student who has seen farmers struggling in Nicaragua emphasized the importance of simple but critical inputs, such as food storage systems, that increase agricultural productivity. A farmer returning from a mission trip to Haiti spoke about the importance of Feed the Future as a program that is not a handout but a hand up, lifting communities into a cycle of prosperity. And a doctor talked about working in Ethiopian clinics using the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to save lives.

Before leaving, Bread members asked what kind of support the group could provide to Sen. Johnson. Kunze encouraged the group to continue to educate others in their community about poverty-focused development assistance, and how such a small portion of the federal budget does so much good.

Robin Stephenson is social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.

 

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