Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Have Your Say in the U.S.’s Global Influence on Poverty

The author of this post stands under a boat that came to rest atop a house in Banda Aceh, Indonesia in the devastating December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. While U.S. food-aid programs have provided much-needed assistance to the country, smart reforms would make aid even more effective. (Stephen H. Padre)

By Stephen H. Padre

One thing I’ve learned from my personal and work-related travel around the world is that there is probably no place on earth that has not been touched by the United States. In many places, you see this in a commercial sense. It’s not hard to buy a Coke when you need one when overseas. And everybody knows something about the United States. “Ah, America!” is often the response when you tell someone in Africa or India where you’re from, and chances are they have seen an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie or know that Barack Obama’s family came from Kenya.

But I also learned that in the background in many developing countries, the United States, through our federal government, has been getting into a lot of places and quietly supporting a lot of people. It has been doing this through its food-aid programs. And we should remember that our federal government is doing this with our support—of us taxpayers—and on our behalf. U.S. food aid uses millions of our dollars to provide life-saving food following disasters and to improve the lives of people who live in the “silent disaster” of poverty year-in and year-out. This latter type of work isn’t as flashy and urgent as responding to disasters that get a lot of news coverage. It’s a lot of slow, long-term development focused on people’s economic and social situations. Long-term development can take many forms, from training women in new livelihoods to teaching farmers better growing techniques to educating children. It’s work that is meant to give people a better life by increasing their family’s income or giving them skills that will benefit their household or whole community.

Sure, we know that our federal government is using our tax dollars to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But consider that the U.S. is also using its shared, public resources in other ways—ways that for decades have helped 3 billion people through food aid. As I’ve traveled around the world and visited many places where organizations like Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, or Church World Service are carrying out long-term development or disaster relief among people who are poor and hungry, I’ve seen the generosity of Christians in the United States who support these church-related agencies and also the generosity of Americans who support this type of work with their tax dollars. I’ve seen lives being sustained in refugee camps with American-supplied food items distributed to Somalis who fled violence in their country. And I’ve seen farmers learning better growing techniques with the help of an American-supported agency. Lives are being saved, and lives are being transformed.

You may support your denomination’s disaster or hunger program with monetary donations. When you do that, you are choosing to use some of your money to respond to God’s call to help people in need. You can also have a say in how some of your tax dollars are used in our government’s food-aid programs. Have your say by writing to your members of Congress as part of Bread’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid." With some smart changes, these programs can be more efficient and effective, enabling them to help millions more people in poor countries. Learn about and be involved in the quiet but powerful ways that our country has touched other corners of the world.

Stephen H. Padre is Bread for the World's managing editor.


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