Elections and Building the Political Will to End Hunger
By Robin Stephenson
Members of Congress will leave behind a lot of unfinished business when they head to their home states and districts for August recess at the end of the week. Anti-hunger advocates should send them back to Washington, D.C., in November with clear orders to get to work on ending hunger.
This is an election year and all 435 members of the House and 33 senators are running for reelection. There will be many public events where anti-hunger advocates can talk to their elected or soon-to-be elected officials about hunger and poverty. Bread for the World has created a set of resources to help advocates start a conversation. These include a guide to speaking up about hunger at Town Halls and updated voting records so you know how your members of Congress have voted on issues of hunger and poverty.
If outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss earlier this year taught elected officials anything, it’s that they can’t ignore district concerns. Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030. To do that, we need to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017. “All politics are local,” said Bread for the World’s director of government relations Eric Mitchell during last month’s national webinar and conference call. “There won't be pressure to change anything unless they hear from local constituents.” And there is plenty to talk about.
The United States is poised to make huge strides in improving food aid that does more than just feed people in a crisis but helps build resilience so they can weather the next storm. Urging lawmakers to cosponsor The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) will help build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Furthermore, Congress should be reminded that faithful advocates oppose provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.
At public events, we must get members of Congress talking about how they will address the root causes that are driving millions of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Lawmakers are focused on the border between the United States and Mexico and not on the source of the problem. Congress should allocate funds in the 2015 budget for programs that can help alleviate hunger and poverty in Central America. However, appropriators are proposing to cut poverty-focused development assistance.
Recent data reports the job market is finally improving, yet more than 3 million long-term unemployed are left without emergency unemployment benefits. The end of the recession has not reached all Americans. Safety net programs to alleviate hunger for low-income families are still the first items on the chopping block. Prioritizing a jobs agenda will make ending hunger in America possible.
“We are not advocating electing one party or another,” said director of organizing LaVida Davis. “As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.”
Hunger affects all of us. Making hunger an election issue is how we can build the political will to end it.
Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.
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