14 posts categorized "Food Aid"
MSNBC host Ronan Farrow looks at U.S. food-aid policies, and the need to reform them, in the latest installment of his "The World Unseen" series. Farrow pays particular attention to shipped food aid—current policies mandate most U.S. food aid is in this form. Commodities, which are subsidized in the United States with taxpayer dollars, saturate the markets of developing countries, and undercut the very people the aid is meant to assist. “Tax payer dollars sent to help often do the opposite” Farrow reports.
Irene, a farmer in Kenya who struggles to feed her children, tells Farrow that the greatest difficulty farmers face is competing with U.S. food—a problem that originates with policy set in Washington, D.C. Agriculture, Farrow says, is the key to Kenya’s economic independence. "Buy local," a term often used in America to support stimulating local economies, also makes a lot of sense in the context of development. Buying food near the source of a crises supports economic independence and strengthens regional agricultural systems. Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign urges Congress to improve the efficiency of our food aid with more dollars available to purchase local food so we can reach millions more people
Highlighted in the MSNBC report are two of the congressional champions behind food-aid reform in the farm bill: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16). As we previously reported, the farm bill authorized and made permanent a provision to use some food aid funding to buy locally—a good first step. But for those provisions to be realized, Congress must also appropriate the funding.
Bread for the World will be examining the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget, expected to be released early next week, for proposals to increase funding for flexible approaches, like local and regional purchase and cash vouchers. We also want to see this flexibility reflected in appropriations bills, which the House and Senate will release later this year. Quality also matters, and supporting policy that increases nutrition will save more lives. The first step, however, will be encouraging our members of Congress to fund the authorized reforms in the farm bill. The farm bill was a start, but much more work needs to be done.
Building the political will to modernize U.S. food aid has human stakes. Irene deserves the opportunity to take care of her family, and if U.S. policies hinder that, we have a responsibility to act. It is, as Farrow says in his segment, about giving the underdog a fighting chance.
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.
A girl enjoys a meal provided in rural Guatemala. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides funding for school meals (Food for Education) in some of the most impoverished and malnurished areas. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Ryan Quinn
Thanks in part to your efforts, 800,000 more people could have access to U.S. food aid each year.
Over the last few months, you've sent thousands of emails to Congress asking for reforms to make food aid more effective and efficient. And modest but significant changes have come in a wide-ranging farm law just signed by President Obama and a bipartisan budget agreement. Together these bills will make it easier for the United States to buy food closer to where it's needed and provide more flexibility around "monetization," a practice in which organizations ship U.S. crops overseas, resell them, and use the money to finance nonemergency programs — something that can be costly and burdensome.
These changes are helping hungry people affected by the crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and those affected by the massive typhoon in the Philippines last year.
While these changes are a step in the right direction, there is much more we can do to ensure that our federal government's food-aid policies are better able to help people in times of crisis and in fostering long-term solutions to hunger.
Your participation in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters campaign is critical to our success. Please take a moment to email your members of Congress. Urge them to fully fund these changes in food aid while enhancing nutritional quality and increasing program flexibility.
Together, we can help ensure that millions more children and families can be reached by food aid. Having grown up living in a lot of different places around the world, I've found that it is a deep and abiding sense of faith, community, and compassion that connects a small town in America to a refugee camp on the border of Syria or Somalia.
With your faith, compassion, and voice, we will convince our nation's leaders to give international food-aid programs the agility they need to be more effective and save more lives. Thanks for speaking out!
Ryan Quinn is senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World.
By Stephen H. Padre
Imagine losing everything you have—your possessions, your home, your livelihood. And your friends, relatives, children, or spouse. Even your country.
This is the situation that millions of refugees found themselves in during the 22-year civil war in Sudan that ended in 2005. For many years during the war, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese fled the fighting and took refuge in northwestern Kenya. Many of them found their way to Kakuma Refugee Camp, which essentially became their new home.
It’s the responsibility of your country’s government to protect you and look after your welfare. When your government can’t do that—when you are forced out of your country because your government is at war, for example—in most cases, the United Nations becomes responsible for you. As a refugee, you are a citizen of a country but are in exile, and therefore have a particular legal status. You can’t always find a way to make a living in your host country. Therefore, you need someone else to support you, which often means providing things as basic as shelter and food.
The U.N. set up Kakuma Refugee Camp in 1992 to house the thousands of refugees fleeing the civil war to the north in Sudan. Under the care of the U.N., the camp provided shelter, food and water, health care, education, and other essential services to as many as 200,000 people at the height of its operations.
While the U.N. is responsible for the camp, it contracts out many of the services to private organizations. The Lutheran World Federation, an organization that addresses poverty and is supported by Lutheran churches around the world, was contracted to oversee the day-to-day operations of the camp. In this role, it carried out the distribution of food to camp residents. This was one of the most critical services it provided to refugees who had nothing. Biweekly rations of food staples—including flour, beans, cooking oil—kept people alive day by day.
The path the food took to get to refugees was somewhat complex. But much of it originated in the United States. It had been purchased with American taxpayer dollars and had been sent by the U.S. government to the World Food Program, one of the many U.N. agencies that worked in the camp. The U.S government is the largest donor to the World Food Program.
We as Americans and taxpayers should be proud of our role in providing food to Sudanese refugees. It meant survival for many of them—continuing to live, sometimes for longer than a decade, before they could return to their country.
Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," focuses on our government’s role in providing food to help refugees, survivors of disasters, and people living in the cycle of chronic poverty. While U.S. food-aid programs provide admirable assistance in many ways around the world, they can work even better. With smart reforms, these programs can help up to 17 million more people—and at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Take part in an Offering of Letters, and urge your members of Congress to support changes to policies and practices that will enable U.S. food aid to help more people.
Stephen H. Padre is Bread for the World's managing editor.
Every day, Catarina Pascual Jiménez—a single mother of four who lives in the Cuchumatanes mountains of Guatemala—asks God "for strength to feed my children and to keep them healthy." She felt her prayers were answered when she learned of a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) food-aid program available to women with children under 2.
Catarina enrolled in the new Program of Integrated Actions on Food Security and Nutrition in the Western Highlands (Paisano) and now receives a monthly ration of rice, beans, fortified corn-soy flour, and oil. Because she receives these staples, Catarina can use some of the income she earns washing bundles of laundry to buy fruits, vegetables, sugar, salt, oatmeal, and other items to supplement her family's diet—an option she didn't have before. Most importantly, she can now give her children three meals a day, definitely a nutritional boost for her two youngest, twins Alexander and Sheili, who exhibited the negative effects of early malnutrition.
"Before we entered the program, sometimes I didn't sleep — I'd lay awake all night, and I'd ask myself how I was going to make it," Catarina says. "My children are my happiness, the reason I live and fight and meet the challenges of life. Now that I am a beneficiary of the program, I don't feel as much worry about food anymore."
Learn more about Catarina by watching the video above and exploring Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid." Together we can change policy and ensure continued, improved assistance to millions of people in need, like Catarina and her children, around the world.
Catarina Pascual Jiménez carries her twins, Alexander and Sheili, in rural Guatemala. Small rations from a USAID program supplement the available food for her family (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).
By Rev. David Beckmann
Each year, Christians all over the country use their influence to help write hunger into history. I invite you to take part in Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," and to urge Congress to make U.S. food aid more effective and efficient.
Thousands of letters from Christians move Congress to develop policies that will end hunger. Your faith-filled advocacy has already had an impact in reforming food aid in the farm bill, but there is more we can do. With adequate funding and smart reforms to U.S. food aid, we can help more people like Catarina Pascual Jiménez, a Guatemalan woman who lives in extreme poverty.
As a single mother, Catarina has struggled to feed her four children, but a few months ago she enrolled in a USAID food-aid program for women with infants under age 2. Because of this assistance, baby twins Sheili and Alexander are now healthier, more active, and happier. The nutrition they receive increases their chances for a better life as they grow.
By enhancing nutritional quality and increasing the flexibility of U.S. food-aid programs, we can help many more families like Catarina's. But Congress won’t make these reforms unless they hear from you and your congregation.
We have everything you need to take part in this year’s Offering of Letters, and to help write hunger into history. Visit www.bread.org/ol/2014 for resources—stories, videos, fact sheets—that will help you conduct an Offering of Letters with your church, campus, or community group.
The success of this campaign depends on your faithful advocacy to build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Please use the power of influence God has entrusted to you to help our neighbors around the world.
Rev. David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
After two years of bitter negotiations, the farm bill— a nearly $1 trillion piece of legislation that will govern U.S. food and farm policy for the next five years— is law. Faithful advocates made calls, met with members of Congress, and wrote thousands of letters and emails in support of reforming food aid in the farm bill. We asked Ryan Quinn, Bread for the World’s senior policy analyst, who tracks food aid, how we did.
“Even though other areas of the farm bill [i.e., harmful cuts to SNAP] were unacceptable, the food-aid provisions were a win,” says Quinn. “We ended up with something better than what was originally in the Senate version.”
Those provisions include an $80 million boost to local and regional purchases , or LRP, which allows the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to buy food close to the source of need rather than shipping life-saving resources, which can take weeks or months. “That was huge,” says Quinn. “LRP is permanent now. There was a pilot program for a modest amount in the last farm bill. Once tested, it was obvious that LRP doesn’t hurt the U.S. agriculture industry, helps more people, and most importantly, it is part of the 'hand up' we want to see with our programs.” By supporting farmers and local markets in distressed regions, LRP is consistent with Bread for the World’s mission to end hunger and poverty.
Asked if reforms included in the farm bill mean we are done reforming policy around U.S. food aid, Quinn emphasized that this was only a first step. “We are doing more with greater efficiency, but more changes are necessary, which is why we have made food-aid reform the focus of our 2014 Offering of Letters.“ (Order your 2014 Offering of Letters toolkit)
Other reforms include phasing out monetization, a practice in which aid organizations resell food-aid products in local markets to support development work, but can undercut local farmers in the process. “We have new ways to do development that weren’t there a few years ago,” says Quinn. Food for Peace will have the flexibility to broaden its scope and will receive a larger share of funding, decreasing the need for monetization. “Flexibility to meet the needs of each circumstance has really been the core of our modernizing efforts,” says Quinn.
Other improvements include increased program transparency and the expansion of the practice of prepositioning food aid in areas where disasters are likely—something that was critical in getting life-saving food aid to the Philippines. But the provision Quinn finds especially encouraging improves the nutritional quality of food. “We are talking about babies here,” he says. "It makes me feel happy that our work helps provide the nutrition they need in the first 1,000 days of life.” Providing proper nutrition to mothers and children during this period establishes a foundation for a better life as children grow.
Asked whether calls and letters from advocates made a difference, Quinn answers with an emphatic "yes."
“I met with Sen. Stabenow's (D-Mich.) staff on food aid, and they made it clear that they heard from Bread members and it made a difference,” he says. Congress may have the power to change polices that address hunger with the stroke of a pen, but “it’s constituent voices that can make them pick up the pen in the first place,” Quinn says.
Next week, learn what is next for food aid as we continue the conversation on the Bread Blog.
Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. Many distributions of U.S. food-aid items, which originate with USAID, are carried out by private relief and development organizations, many of them supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen H. Padre)
Photo: DeEtte Peck uses her EBT card to purchase food in Portland, Ore. (Brian Duss)
By David Beckmann
I want to thank you for your faithful advocacy to protect SNAP (formerly food stamps) and to improve U.S. food aid in the farm bill.
Nearly three years after starting our work on this bill, Congress is on the verge of passing The Agricultural Act of 2014 — a final, five-year authorization of food and farm programs. While the bill includes important reforms to food aid, it also cuts the SNAP program by more than $8 billion.
These cuts are extremely disappointing, but your advocacy was critical in ensuring that millions of people were not kicked off the program. The House passed the compromise bill on Wednesday, and the Senate is expected to pass it on Monday.
The bill is far from perfect, but your faithfulness in sending more than 39,000 emails and making 5,900 calls to Congress last year alone made a big difference. Here’s a brief summary of what is important in the bill:
- U.S. food aid. There are positive reforms to food-aid programs that make them more efficient, enabling the greatest impact possible while improving food-aid quality and nutrition. This includes increased cash flexibility for development programs and establishing a permanent local and regional procurement (LRP) program with funding up to $80 million a year.
- SNAP. The bill includes an $8.6 billion benefit cut. Though less than the $40 billion in cuts proposed in 2013, this cut comes a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet. It will not kick current beneficiaries from the program, but it will cut benefits for approximately 850,000 households in 15 states—California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin—and the District of Columbia, just months after every SNAP household in the country saw its monthly allotments reduced.
As important as what was included in the bill is what was not included. Harmful SNAP policy changes that would have kicked millions off the program, banned convicted felons for life, punished people for not finding work in a tough economy, and allowed states to drug test every applicant were virtually eliminated. There are also no cuts to food aid or food-aid quality programs.
While the lack of these harmful changes and the food-aid reforms are a huge victory for people who are hungry, the SNAP cuts will be a significant blow to the 850,000 households that will lose about $90 a month in benefits at a time when hunger in America remains at an all-time high. Any cut to SNAP is harmful.
Congress must not forget that many families are still struggling — unemployment remains high, and programs that support hungry and poor people are at risk of greater cuts. Your voice and your advocacy continue to be critical in protecting hungry people from cuts.
Without your advocacy, the farm bill would not have included key first steps for food-aid reforms and would have cut SNAP much deeper. I am confident your voices and your continued faith will continue to have an impact in the coming debates.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World
For more than 50 years, U.S. food aid has benefited more than 3 billion hungry and malnourished people around the world. While the federal government's food-aid programs do much good, smart reforms would help get more food to more people in less time—at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.
This year's Offering of Letters focuses on much-needed reform to U.S. food aid. Learn about the United States' role in global aid, and why reform is so critical. Then, write to your members of Congress and urge them to enact much needed reforms to our global food aid programs.
Together we can change policy and ensure continued, improved assistance to millions of hungry people around the world.
The 2014 Offering of Letters kits will be available at the beginning of February. For more information, visit www.bread.org/OL.
Durante más de cincuenta años, la ayuda alimentaria de Estados Unidos ha beneficiado a 3 mil millones de personas con hambre y desnutrición en el extranjero. La ayuda alimentaria del gobierno federal salva muchas vidas, pero con reformas estratégicas y el mismo nivel de financiamiento podemos ayudar a millones de personas más.
La Ofrenda de Cartas 2014 se enfoca en la reforma a la ayuda alimentaria de Estados Unidos. Aprenda sobre el papel de Estados Unidos en la ayuda mundial, y por qué la reforma es tan crítica. Después, escriba una carta a sus miembros del Congreso, instándolos para que aprueben reformas necesarias para nuestros programas de ayuda alimentaria.
Juntos podemos cambiar la política y asegurar que la asistencia para los millones que padecen hambre en el mundo se mejore y continúe.
El manual de la Ofrenda de Cartas 2014 estará disponible a principios de febrero. Para más información, visite www.bread.org/OL.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.