Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

40 posts categorized "2014 Offering of Letters"

Rick Steves Op-ed to Protect U.S. Food Aid

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Travel show host Rick Steves in Ireland. (Photo courtesy of Rick Steves)

Rick Steves, television and radio personality, travel expert, and longtime Bread for the World member, wrote an opinion piece on U.S. food aid that was published in The Seattle Times yesterday. In his guest contribution, titled "Protect U.S. food aid from the shipping industry," Steves, a resident of Washington state, asks Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to protect food aid. He also calls on Washington voters to support her efforts to do so.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included a provision that would increase the cost of shipping food aid by at least $75 million. This increase would mean 2 million fewer hungry people would benefit from lifesaving food-aid programs. The bill is now being considered by the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Cantwell is a member. Bread for the World is asking the committee members to strip any provisions that would increase transportation costs for food aid.

A frequent traveler, Steves has a perspective on global hunger that motivates him to advocate that U.S. food aid be made more efficient.  In his guest post, he writes:

I care about this issue in part because of my work as a travel writer. Having spent a third of my adult life overseas, it’s clear to me: While we are a compassionate society, we can be oblivious to the consequences that some of our choices have on struggling people. Sure, we have our economic challenges. But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.

I believe that, even if motivated only by greed and national security interests, if U.S. citizens know what’s good for ourselves and our country, we don’t want to be extremely wealthy in a world with lots of hunger. U.S. food aid, which saves millions of lives each year, is vital in combating this challenge. And making every food-aid dollar count is a responsible use of taxpayer money, a moral imperative and in America’s interest.

Read the piece in its entirety on The Seattle Times website

Bread for the World is asking Washington state faith leaders to sign a letter to Sen. Cantwell asking her to protect U.S. food aid. The letter, addressed to Cantwell and other members of the Senate Commerce Committee, will be delivered June 10 during Bread for the World's Lobby Day.

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Learn more about Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid on the Offering of Letters website.

Exposing Special Interest that Would Take Food From the Hungry

11469010743_f88c4054dc_bBy Ryan Quinn

Wealthy shipping companies, mostly foreign-owned, have lobbied for more profit for themselves at the expense of 2 million hungry people, and the House of Representatives has sanctioned it.  It’s a boondoggle — it's not only a waste of time and money, it goes against our nation's values.

This subsidy to the world’s largest shipping conglomerates was quietly included as a provision in the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill for fiscal year 2015, which passed by voice vote in the House. The legislation would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.

This provision has nothing to do with the U.S. Coast Guard and is a blatant attempt by special interests to line their own pockets while more people overseas go hungry.

Cornell University’s Christopher Barrett and Bucknell University’s Erin Lentz expose the level of depravity the shipping lobby has reached in “Highway robbery on the high seas," a recent article in The Hill.  In addition to limiting food aid, they state that the legislation would also limit competition and restrict public comment.  “These anti-competitive restrictions, which enable much more expensive shipping rates than competitor vessels would charge, generate windfall profits to a few, mainly foreign companies who operate U.S.-flagged vessels through domestic subsidiaries,” they write.

I have been meeting with members of the Senate Commerce Committee, who are writing their version of the bill. Our goal is to strip the provision from the Senate bill in committee.  A common argument for increasing cargo preference relies on the idea that not doing so will result in U.S. job losses. Barrett and Lentz point out that earlier reforms, which reduced cargo preference, did not result in any lost jobs. In addition, they write, “this type of indirect subsidy is so inefficient that any job created comes at a taxpayer cost of about $100,000.”

In 2010, Barrett and Lentz were part of a research team that conducted a rigorous peer-reviewed analysis on agricultural cargo preference policy (ACP). Their conclusion was that ACP is not cost effective or efficient, does not increase military readiness, and does not substantially affect the labor market.  ACP does, however, squander scare food-aid resources intended to help alleviate hunger.

Opposition to the ACP provision is clearly bipartisan. Organizations as diverse as The Heritage Foundation and The Center for American Progress agree that that increasing cargo preference is a step backward.

I am asking you to sign a petition, which I intend to deliver to Capitol Hill next week. Regional organizers are asking for faith leaders to add their names to sign-on letters targeting some key members on the committee, which they will deliver in person on June 10.

Lives are at stake. We have seen the difference flexibility made after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and U.S. food aid helped save lives. An estimated 5 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance urgently — after fleeing violence, mothers now fear famine will claim their children. Right now we must not undo the progress made on food-aid reform, nor turn our backs to those in need when we have the means to help.

Ryan Quinn is a senior policy analyst in the government relations department at Bread for the World.

Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World)

Building Bipartisan Momentum for Food Aid

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Before receiving assistance from the Food for Peace program, Davane Mesa Paulo was struggling with just a hectare of land and a few crops that he grew for food. "Hunger ran away from my house," he said recently. "So people started coming to ask how." (Bita Rodriguez/USAID)


Food-aid reform came out as a winner in yesterday’s Senate Appropriation Committee agriculture bill markup. The 2015 spending bill, which sets funding amounts for the U.S. programs that deliver emergency and humanitarian food assistance, will include $35 million for food-aid reform efforts. The funds would help food aid reach an estimated 200,000 more people in need.

However, the spending bill still has a long way to go before the Oct. 1 deadline – the start of the fiscal year. Once the final bill passes out of the Appropriations Committee, it will then go to the floor for a vote from the full Senate. Finally, if there is normal process, it will be conferenced with the House version of the bill.

Bread for the World and its members are urging Congress to update food-aid policy to better meet the needs of hungry people facing natural disasters, food insecurity and malnutrition, famine, civil strife, and other extraordinary circumstances. Thousands of letters from Christians have already arrived in offices on Capitol Hill, building the momentum for bipartisan efforts to reform food aid— as we saw in yesterday’s vote.

The food-aid amendment was introduced thanks to the efforts of Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Before the committee vote, Sen. Johanns said, “Literally,  people live or die by the decision we make here." The vote of 16 ayes to 14 nays was strongly bipartisan.  Last minute efforts on the part of grassroots anti-hunger advocates, who made a lot of noise in support of the bill, helped push the amendment forward.

The funds will help replace the practice of monetization — in which aid organizations resell food-aid products in local markets to support development work, but can undercut local farmers in the process. The more flexibility administrators have in implementing Food For Peace, the more efficient the development programs can become, allowing thousands of additional people to better feed themselves and escape hunger. Flexibility in design and implementation also helps us build resilience against future emergencies.

“This is significant and shows that there is a strong desire for reform that crosses party lines,” says Ryan Quinn, senior policy analyst at Bread for the World. “We can build on this,” he said, “but keep in mind that we are also facing cuts if the Senate Commerce Committee includes a cargo-preference provision in a bill they are starting to write.”

The House recently passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill that included a provision to increase transportation costs for food aid. This would limit the amount of food aid the U.S. could provide, and program costs would come out of Food for Peace funds. We are currently reaching out to faith leaders in committee member’s states and organizing sign-on letters to stop the provision in a Senate bill.

“This was a real win for hungry people and sets us on the right path,” said Quinn.  “We should feel good and know our voices are making a difference. But, he cautions, "in a world where 842 million people go to bed hungry every day, and crises situations like Syria and South Sudan are getting worse, we have to keep this momentum going.”

U.S. Food Aid in the News

HaitiBy now you have likely heard that a provision that would limit the amount of U.S. food aid available to help hungry people was added to a Coast Guard reauthorization bill passed by the House. This decision, which could take food away from more than 2 million vulnerable people, was made without accountability or transparency, but media attention is helping to bring the provision to light. Members of the public and members of Congress are becoming aware of the harmful provision, which primarily benefits foreign-owned shipping companies.

Bread for the World members advocated for and won reforms in the recent farm bill that would make food aid more flexible and able to help more people at no additional cost—the provision in the House bill threatens to undo some of that progress. The Senate commerce committee will consider the bill next, and is expected to begin writing its own version in the next few weeks.

In a recent Huffington Post piece, Bread for the World President David Beckmann writes:

"Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us to "speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Special-interest favors to the shipping industry should not create additional hardship for hungry and poor people globally. This provision does nothing to protect the poor and needy. At best, it is morally imbalanced.

Here is a compilation of a few other recently-published articles on the harmful provision (H.R. 4005), and how it could affect our ability to help hungry people in need:

"US food aid U-turn could put 2m people in jeopardy, warn experts." May 2, 2014, by Carey L. Biron for Inter Press Service, The Guardian. "We're always talking about the budget crisis and using our money more wisely, but here's a provision that would specifically raise the cost of food aid by $75m [£44m] annually. That money would be taken directly out of U.S. food-aid programmes – and millions of vulnerable people would be forced to pay the bill."

"Provision Could Limit U.S. Food Aid." April 24, 2014, by Ron Nixon, New York Times. "An obscure provision tucked inside a Coast Guard spending bill could prevent millions of people in troubled countries around the world from receiving American food aid and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in shipping costs."

"White House Warns Bill Would Crimp Foreign Food Aid." April 24, 2014, by Kristina Peterson, Wall Street Journal. "'As we work swiftly to reach hungry people and save lives, this bill would only increase the cost of shipping emergency food aid, potentially denying relief to more than 2 million persons in need annually,' said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development."

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Call (800-326-4941) or email your senators today! Urge them to reject any actions that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent hungry people around the world from receiving U.S. food assistance.

Photo: The U.S. has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies and is the largest provider of lifesaving food aid. Since Food for Peace—the largest food aid program–began in the 1950s, approximately 3 billion people in 150 countries have benefitted from American generosity and compassion. A Haitian woman and her daughter carry their humanitarian aid rations after receiving them at a food distribution center in Congrave after the 2010 earthquake. (U.S. Navy)

Faith Leaders Tell Missouri Senators to Protect Food Aid in Op-ed

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Lutheran Development Service distributes cooking oil to people affected by a 2004 drought in Swaziland. Many U.S. food-aid items are distributed by private relief and development organizations supported by U.S. churches.  (Stephen Padre)

Local newspapers can be a powerful and public way to message your members of Congress as well as bring attention to hunger issues.

Faith leaders in Missouri published an op-ed last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opposing a harmful change to U.S. food aid. In the editorial, titled "A provision in Congress that hurts taxpayers and the hungry," Rev. Roger R. Gustafson, Dr. Jim Hill, and Meg Olson call on Missouri senators to reject a provision slipped in to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 that would increase cargo preference.

The bill, which recently passed the House, increases the percentage of U.S. food aid required to be shipped on private U.S. shipping vessels. In effect, this takes away an additional $75 million per year from much-needed U.S. international food-aid programs. Both senators for Missouri, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), sit on the commerce committee, which will soon consider this issue.

"As we read in the Book of Proverbs, 'A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but an accurate weight is his delight.' A present-day “false balance” that harms taxpayers and hungry people was tucked into a bill heading to the U.S. Senate, and it must be removed," the faith leaders wrote in the op-ed.

"The false balance in question is an obscure, one-sentence provision in an otherwise unrelated bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives. This provision would tilt the balance in the wrong direction — against fiscal responsibility and against millions of hungry people around the world. As faith leaders called to be stewards of our resources and to serve our neighbors both here and around the world — and especially 'the least of these' — we find this unacceptable, and we call on our U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to correct the balance and remove this unjust provision."

Read the editorial in its entirety on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website.

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If your member of Congress also sits on the commerce committee, now is the time to speak up.  The committee will soon begin drafting their own version of the bill and without an outcry from faithful advocates, the cargo-preference stipulation could take food from nearly 2 million hungry people. This provision, as the authors write, is an unjust balance. Both taxpayers and the hungry deserve better.

Every member of Congress relies on local media to gauge public opinion on legislation and determine their constituents' priorities. Learn more about how to influence the media on Bread's website and call your regional organizer if you would like to help organize an editorial in your own state.

Facing Goliath: Faithful Advocacy and Food Aid Reform

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Because of policy changes allowing flexibility in how we deliver food aid, USAID was able to commit $10 million dollars to be used to purchase food in the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.  (USAID photo)

I have a confession to make: I occasionally have moments of despair as an anti-hunger advocate. Then I go through a few stages that remind me faith has the power to move mountains – or topple giants as the case may be. 

Despair weighed me down when I learned a harmful bill, which cuts international food aid to starving people in deference to shipping companies hungry for profit, passed the House. Three private, foreign-owned shipping companies would largely reap the benefits of a cargo preference provision quietly added to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 (HR 4005). Their profit would come at the expense of U.S. food=aid programs. The bill  now sits in the Senate Commerce Committee for consideration

I’m now hopeful that we can fight this harmful provision, but it took me a little while to get here. If you sometimes feel hopeless in your work to end hunger, don’t worry—it’s normal and necessary. Sometimes we must feel sadness and despair—they are the very things that move us to act. Usually, I experience this in four stages: 

I feel sad and tired.

I recall a scene broadcast on the news after Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines: A distraught teenager wails and beats on the one remaining wall of what was once his family’s home– his lifeless mother lies in the rubble nearby and his father looks at the camera and pleads for help. I cry. The next scene shows international compassion for humanity as helicopters drop food and water to survivors. 

Flexibility on where food can be purchased is a major factor in getting life-saving aid to the Philippines quickly. Reforms in the 2014 farm bill could help up to 800,000 additional people at no additional cost. It is good to see the results of advocacy as lives are saved.

But some want to turn back the clock. Food shipped under cargo-preference law from the United States takes an average of 14 weeks longer to reach people in a crisis. Increasing cargo preference, as stipulated in the Coast Guard bill, would deny an estimated 2 million hungry people access to food aid and reverse improvements made in the farm bill. I wonder how lawmakers could make such a choice: a few shipping companies over 2 million lives.

I feel outraged.

Powerful maritime lobbyist versus a group of Christian advocates seems like a losing battle. However, time and time again, our collective Christian voice wins victories by using gifts of citizenship. The Bible is full of inspirational stories that remind me that faith and “right” is more powerful than money and might. I turn to scripture.

I feel hopeful.

I read 1 Samuel 17 — the story of David and Goliath. The odds of a little guy defeating a giant warrior seem laughable. The soldier’s tools of battle are too heavy, so he is left with a sling and some stones. But David does not go into battle alone and he knows this is the Lord’s fight — David answers a call to act. With a single stone, David topples a giant.

I feel called and ready to act.

There are always giants on Capitol Hill, whether special-interest lobbyists, or lawmakers themselves. Like David picking up the rock as he faces impossible odds against Goliath, anti-hunger advocates can pick up phones, send emails, visit their members of Congress and send a powerful message to the Senate: reject any actions that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent hungry people around the world from receiving U.S. food assistance.

We make a difference and we carry with us a sacred call to end hunger. When we live that call out together, giants topple.

Robin Stephenson is Bread for the World's national lead for social media and regional organizer, western hub.

Advocacy in Action: 'Glocal' Thinking

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Bill Clark of Philabundance, a Philadelphia-area food bank, makes the case to participants of a workshop that the government has long had the ability to address hunger as a social crisis. (Stephen Padre)

[This story originally appeared in the May edition of Bread for the World's newsletter.]

"We [as a nation] have done very little to end hunger," declared Bill Clark, executive director of Philabundance, a food bank serving the Philadelphia area. "The problem next week is the same problem we were facing last week. We really haven’t done anything, and we haven’t been engaged in any way to actually end hunger. But I believe we can do that, and some of these large movements that we've seen historically give me faith that we can."

Clark was one of three local anti-hunger leaders and activists who addressed 62 hunger advocates in Southeastern Pennsylvania March 29 at Villanova University. The advocates gathered for a day of information, inspiration, and being equipped for activism at a workshop organized by Bread for the World.

Clark spoke to participants, who included dozens of students from area colleges and seminaries, about his work assisting the nearly 1 million people in the Delaware Valley who face hunger every day. He provided a national context for his work in the area by explaining that the federal government and social movements have each played key roles in ending other societal ills such as slavery and child labor.

He and the other two speakers, who presented in the short, information-intensive style of the popular TED Talks, were at the workshop as examples of local practitioners, people who are fighting hunger in local communities day-byday. Clark spoke about the success of Philabundance’s new nonprofit grocery store, Fare and Square, in Chester, Pa., a former food desert.

A fourth speaker at the workshop, Bread's director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, provided a national perspective on ending hunger in his talk, titled "Why Do Elections Matter?"

"I like to call elections marching orders," said Mitchell. "It's constituents telling their member of Congress, 'When you go to D.C., you better vote on this issue and that issue.'" He explained to advocates that all elections, even midterm elections, like the ones approaching in 2014, can and do have long-lasting effects because of who gets elected to Congress and how they vote.

Following these speakers, which provided different aspects of fighting hunger, advocates received training on carrying out a letter-writing event in their church or on their campus as part of Bread's Offering of Letters campaign. Bread offers workshops similar to the one at Villanova for Bread’s biggest church- and campus-based legislative campaign every year to provide background on the campaign's topic and to hone the advocacy skills of advocates.

Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters focuses on reforming the U.S. government's programs that provide food aid overseas, which provided yet another perspective, an international one, to the workshop's participants.

In small-group discussions, which occurred between speakers throughout the day, advocates wrestled with the truth that hunger is not well-known in communities where it exists. They agreed that it is crucial to emphasize reality-based, compelling stories told by those directly experiencing hunger and poverty. One participant noted, "We need to bridge the gap between people who have stories about hunger and those who have the mental space to campaign."

To see if there is a workshop scheduled near you (or to request one), contact your Bread regional organizer, who can also assist you with organizing an Offering of Letters.

Roger Thurow and the Global Cost of Malnutrition

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A student who benefits from a USAID funded feeding program in Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

While the suffering of children who do not receive adequate nutrition during the first 1000 days of their lives cannot be overstated, malnutrition is a problem that can also impact a nation’s economic productivity and even our global economy. One out of four children under the age of five is stunted – that’s a quarter of our global population. The good news is we have solutions that work, but the question remains: will we implement policies and fund programs that we know can make a difference?

This is the focus of a recent article in The Atlantic by Roger Thurow, author of the new book The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, and senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

In a moving excerpt from the article 1,000 Days: The Period That Decides the Health and Wealth of the World, Thurow writes:

“For me, the human face of these numbers is a boy I first met during the Ethiopian famine of 2003, when international food aid was keeping 14 million people alive. Hagirso was five years old and weighed just 27 pounds when his father, Tesfaye Ketema, carried him into an emergency feeding tent. Tesfaye explained that his son, who was sickly and weak and stunted, had been malnourished since birth and was the most vulnerable in the family when the famine hit. Hagirso miraculously survived, but his early malnourishment and the subsequent famine exacted a tremendous toll. When I visited him 10 years later, in April 2013, Hagirso was 15 and barely four feet tall. Tesfaye said his son was often sick and wasn’t strong enough to do much work on the small family farm. Hagirso was in school, but only in the first grade. The day I visited, he and his much-younger classmates were studying the alphabet and pronouncing vowel-consonant combinations: ba, be, bi, bo, bu. There, in that classroom, was confirmation of all the statistics on the cost of malnutrition and stunting: lost education, lost work, lost wages, lost opportunity.”

Calculate the cost of malnutrition globally and the bill is estimated to run about $1.4 – 2.1 trillion a year. Targeting nutrition and nutrition education to mothers and infants in the first 1000 days is a cost-effective solution with proven results.

U.S. food aid — the focus of Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters — is one vehicle that allows the United States to play its part in decreasing global malnutrition.  With smart policy changes that address a modern understanding of the long-term effects of hunger, we can provide food that is more nutritious, especially to women and children in the critical 1,000-day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.

The future is at stake – malnutrition strips opportunity from the Hagirsos of the world. What he might have been able to contribute to his family, his village, his country, and the world has been compromised because of hunger.  We cannot change what happened to Hagirso, but we can make a difference for the millions of other children around the world .

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After learning more about what's at stake, take action by writing to your members of Congress and urging them to pass much-needed reform to our food-aid programs. Recent food-aid improvements are also in danger of being reversed. Learn more about how you can take urgent action here.

Justice is In Reach for All

By Derick Dailey and Ericka Elion

Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 

Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery.

—Nehemiah 5:11-12

Nehemiah 5 tells the story of Jewish farmers faced with a crisis—one of social, economic, and political proportions. These farmers were forced to deal with widespread famine due to crop scarcity and greed on behalf of the ruler. People lacked enough food to eat, the government imposed excessive taxes on the poorest, and, consequently, the poor were forced into a system of debt as they borrowed money from those in power to satisfy the government’s demand. 

Today, our society is faced with a similar crisis; one of social, economic, and political weight, but also one that has moral implications. Today, there is a persistent poverty of consciousness and spiritual conviction, driven by the overwhelming realities of our time: low wages or no wages, setbacks and cut backs, discrimination, hatred, and political gridlock. Our children are subjected to slavery, both literal and figurative. They are oppressed, suppressed, and held bondage by poverty, and then stigmatized when they seek help by attempting to access the social safety net.

Ask yourself, is God pleased with such atrocity?

Much like Nehemiah’s stories, people across the world have stories of personal testimony that serve as tools of transformation.

This year, the focus of Bread for the World's Offering of Letters is food-aid reform. Included in the Offering on Letters kit is the powerful story of Catarina, a woman whose young children have been able to thrive because of U.S. food aid. Bread for the World members Chang Park has shared his story of receiving U.S. food aid as a child growing up in Korea. These stories combine to form a collective body of spiritual tools which people of faith can lean on and learn from.

As we fight to reform food aid in the coming months, we long to hear your stories of triumph and trial, of overcoming and overreaching, stories of challenge and championing. Share your story with us in the comments, and with your member of Congress by writing a personal letter. Tell your senators and representative why we must work to help people in times of crisis and ensure that all are fed. Or, host an Offering of Letters workshop, and engage your congregation or campus in this response to hunger and suffering in the world.   

Doing justice is about prophetic vision anchored in love for every neighbor, and compassion and mercy to the oppressor and the oppressed.  Advocacy allows justice to be within reach for everyone. You can do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and share your voice and story to help usher in God’s holy work of ending hunger.

Derick Dailey is a graduate student at Yale University, and a Bread for the World member. Ericka Elion is the ECC-Covenant World Relief fellow at Bread for the World and a MDiv/MNA student at North Park Theological Seminary.

To learn more about Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," visit www.bread.org/ol, and watch the recording of our recent Google Hangout on food-aid reform.

 

Photos: 1) A farmer in Guatemala (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World); 2) Farmer Jane Sebbi tending her land in Uganda (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World); and 3) A young girl eating breakfast (Margaret Nea).

From Charity to Justice: Food Aid Reform

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Jane Sebbi, left, is a farmer with 12 acres of land in Kamuli, Uganda, and a mother of seven children. In this photo, she works in her field with her sister-in-law. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)


“There is a saying that helps to explain this challenge to work for justice, not just for charity. It goes like this: 'If people are hungry you can give them some fish and they will live another day. It’s called relief.  But if you not only give a fish, but teach them how to fish for themselves they will be helped to feed themselves in the future.'  This is often called development.  That sounds good but it can be misleading if it is not followed with the next step. There is a third part of that saying that is critical to our efforts to move beyond guilt. We must not only offer the fish (relief) and assistance in knowing how to fish themselves (development), but we must move over in the pond and give them a place to fish. Or as someone has added, we must stop polluting the pond where they fish and give them a fair price for their fish. The third step has many facets to it. It is called working for justice, fairness. Justice includes efforts to end oppression and unfair practices of what Walter Wink calls the domination system.  Moving from charity to justice is difficult because it calls for careful listening, increased awareness and critical thinking about the attitudes and values that have brought us to the current crises.”
 
—Excerpt from Beyond Guilt: Christian Response to Suffering (p. 42) by George  S. Johnson.

In Bread for the World's April e-newsletter, Todd Post, senior editor of Bread for the World Institute’s annual Hunger Report, writes about how an agricultural development program and a cow have helped Rwandan Joseline Umugwaneza move out of extreme poverty. If we are to make progress in the exodus from hunger both at home and abroad, we must address the root causes of hunger and seek solutions that break the cycles of chronic poverty and malnutrition.

U.S. food aid has played a significant role in preventing global hunger and starvation for decades. But with a few common-sense reforms, food-aid programs can help millions more, while building resilience against future crises. Food-aid reform is the focus of Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters.

No reforms matter if funding for food assistance and nutrition programs are cut. As a new appropriations cycle begins, Bread members must ask their members of Congress to adequately fund U.S. food aid. Further creating an obstacle to a more just system of food assistance is a provision in a House-passed Coast Guard reauthorization bill, which is getting very little media attention. The reauthorization bill would require 75 percent of all U.S. food aid to be shipped on U.S. vessels. The resulting increase in shipping costs would reduce funding for programs that help support U.S. humanitarian efforts. Senators, especially those on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, should remove such provision from a final bill.

Bread members spent two years advocating for improvements in the farm bill that would help end the hunger that affects too many in our world. We have come too far to allow our work to be scuttled by a provision in a Coast Guard spending bill. Funding international food assistance is essential to building food security around the world and ensuring that aid is not a handout, but a hand up.

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