19 posts categorized "Food Aid"
Today is April 15, also known as tax day in the United States. People around the country are scrambling to meet the midnight deadline for filing, many of them groaning as they prepare to make sizable payments to the Internal Revenue Service. Tax day in America has become a national day of grousing for the most part, but it doesn't have to be—NETWORK Lobby is promoting a #taxpayerpride campaign on social media, and asking people to take selfies with some of the great things taxes pay for and post them to social media.
"Many of our faith traditions call us to pool our financial resources for the common good,"Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK wrote in the launch of the #taxpayerpride campaign. "What makes our country great is our commitment to everyone having enough and no one getting left behind."
We agree! So, to that point, here are three functions of the federal government that are funded by our taxpayer dollars and that support the biblical vision of community and nation as lifting up those who are vulnerable.
1) Earned Income Tax Credit
The earned income tax credit, or EITC, is a refundable federal tax credit (people apply while completing their income tax returns) that supplements the wages of low-income workers. Although there has been some debate on Capitol Hill about expanding the program to include childless workers--an expansion Bread for the World supports—EITC has historically had bi-partisan support, a rare hand-up that most members of Congress can get behind.
The working poor often shoulder a greater share of the tax burden relative to their income, contrary to the conventional wisdom in some circles. A 2012 Citizens for Tax Justice study found that the poorest fifth of Americans, a group with an average cash income of $13,000 per year, saw 17.4 percent of their incomes go to taxes—including payroll tax, sales tax, and excise tax—in 2011.
The EITC helps offset this a bit by allowing low-income workers to keep more of what they earn. In 2010, this credit lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty—including 3 million children.
2) Food-Aid Reform
Even people who don't complain about paying taxes may express concern about our government's stewardship of tax dollars. One example of our tax dollars being used wisely is food-aid reform, the movement to update our government's outdated practices related to food aid, the assistance our nation provides to hungry people across the globe.
Food aid already helps feed people overseas at very little cost—less than .05 percent of the federal budget each year. And smart, simple changes to food-aid programs (as outlined in Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters) would allow food aid to benefit millions more people each year — at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Better utilization of existing tax revenue in a way that helps more people is something tax payers can feel good about.
3) Safety Net Programs
When people are asked to cite some of the great things their tax dollars fund, they often mention national parks, public museums and libraries, or bridges and roads. While Americans are fortunate to live in a country where our government values and invests in things like cultural enrichment and infrastructure,we're even more privileged to live in a nation that has a social safety net in place to catch people before they fall into poverty.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), about 12 percent of the federal budget in 2013, or $398 billion, supported programs that provide aid to individuals and families facing hardship (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits). Included in that figure are SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, and many other important programs.
A CBPP analysis shows that government safety net programs kept some 41 million people out of poverty in 2012. Although not nearly enough of our tax dollars go toward helping people in need, the good news is that the money we do spend on social safety net is vital and does much good, something that should make taxpayers feel very proud.
U.S. food assistance has been critical in helping more than 3 billion people in over 150 countries over the past five decades. Food assistance saves lives, helps people recover from crises, and breaks the cycles of chronic poverty and malnutrition.
Unfortunately, humanitarian needs and the scope of food crises continue to expand while many countries, including our own, face increasing budget constraints. In 2011 alone, 206 million people were affected by droughts, floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. Globally, 870 million people are chronically food-insecure. All of this underscores the critical importance of food aid from our federal government, which has long been a leader in providing this assistance.
Food-aid reform is the focus of Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters. It is a way for many Christians in thousands of churches and other faith communities across the country to collectively voice their concerns in Congress for the neighbors in God's world who live overseas.
The U.S. government must be poised to respond in the timeliest, most effective, and cost-efficient way possible. Fortunately, in January, some initial food-aid reforms were signed into law as part of the new farm bill. But those reforms can’t have any impact if they aren’t fully funded. That means Bread is looking to Congress and the Obama administration with a few key requests in the current appropriations cycle, including:
Flexibility through local and regional purchases
Having the option to obtain food closer to where it is needed would enable our federal government's food-aid programs to save more lives as well as money. The farm bill recently authorized a permanent local and regional purchase (LRP) program at $80 million a year. This money was in the president’s most recent budget request, and Congress needs to hear from constituents to be convinced of the importance of this program.
Currently, most food aid from the United States must be in the form of food grown and purchased in the United States and shipped overseas to the place of need. Shipping goods overseas from American shores is costly in terms of time and money. The alternative practice of buying food from local and regional markets for distribution, proposed in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters, can be both quicker and more cost effective than the current practice.
Two independent evaluations by the Government Accountability Office and a congressionally mandated study by Management Systems International found that LRP programs have an average cost savings of at least 25 percent compared to similar in-kind food-aid programs. In some cases, these savings can increase to over 50 percent, as a Cornell University study documented, along with a 62 percent gain in timeliness of delivery. The flexibility, cost effectiveness, and timeliness of such programs means that humanitarian organizations can deliver food aid more quickly and at less cost to taxpayers while supporting local markets and communities in developing countries (private relief and development organizations, including those related to U.S. churches, are the entities that actually implement the programs under contracts with the U.S. government).
Other types of flexibility
One significant provision that was included in the president’s budget was language that would provide new authority to use up to 25 percent of funding in emergencies for interventions such as local or regional procurement of food, food vouchers, or cash transfers. As the president's budget request states, this flexibility ensures that emergency food assistance would be timelier and more cost-effective, thereby improving program efficiencies and performance. Bread estimates that the 25 percent provision alone would allow the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government's main implementer of food aid, to reach approximately 2.6 million more people each year with the same level of resources.
No reforms matter if funding for food assistance and nutrition programs are cut. Because there have been more conflicts and natural disasters, the needs are actually greater, not less, and require continued U.S. leadership.
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, breaking the cycles of poverty and hunger to allow for sustainable achievements in international development. Not only that, but the types of food aid distributed address nutritional needs as well, especially among vulnerable groups like children and pregnant mothers.
Take part in Bread's 2014 Offering of Letters, Reforming U.S. Food Aid, and hold a letter-writing event at your church or campus. Order your Offering of Letters kit at www.bread.org/store, or download the materials at www.bread.org/ol/2014.
[This article originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]
Women carry their ration of food, after fleeing their homes in the village of Abyei, engulfed by heavy fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army. (UN Photo/Tim McKulka)
By Alyssa Casey
This week, the House passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill, which includes a provision that could drastically reduce the number of hungry people that U.S. food aid can reach. The provision would significantly increase cargo-preference restrictions, rules requiring that a certain percentage of all cargo funded by the United States – including food-aid products – must be transported on American ships with American crews. 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.
Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters campaign focuses on the need to reform the federal government's food-aid programs so that funds are used more effectively and efficiently. Local and regional purchase (LRP) – the practice of buying food at or near the site of a humanitarian crisis – gives the United States flexibility in responding to crises, enabling us to act more quickly and save more lives, as we witnessed in the post-disaster Philippines earlier this year. The cargo-preference provision, however, would reduce funding for LRP—and food shipped under cargo-preference law from the United States takes an average of 14 weeks longer to reach people in need than local purchase. Buying local food mitigates the effects of disaster on the local economy and helps local farmers and vendors continue to support themselves and their families. LRP also uses tax dollars more efficiently and costs 25 to 50 percent less than food shipped from the United States—and reaches millions more. In short, this harmful provision could result in the United States spending more money on slower, less effective assistance to hungry people rocked by crisis, and the help we do provide has the potential to undercut local farmers and merchants—some of the very people U.S. food aid seeks to help.
Smart food aid is forward thinking. In 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP) were able to feed more than 72,000 people in Rwanda while supporting Rwandan farmers through local purchase. This drastically reduced costs – saving $243 per metric ton on corn and $899 per metric ton on beans – and allowed food aid to be delivered months sooner than if it had been shipped from the United States.
Since 2002, the U.S. government has reduced purchase of U.S.-grown food aid from 5 metric tons in 2002, to 1.4 million tons in 2012. At the same time, all major U.S. ports have increased overall tons exported. (Source: USAID)
The cargo-preference restrictions, added shortly before the bill was passed, are based on the argument that food aid hurts exports. However, food aid accounts for only one half of one percent of all U.S. exports. Food shipped from our shores yields about 40 cents for every aid dollar spent. The small loss in export revenue becomes much less urgent in comparison to the millions of lives saved and the long-term consequences of resilience. Building resilience in developing countries often leads to future trading partners. South Korea, once a poverty-wracked recipient of U.S. food aid, is now the United States' sixth-largest goods trading partner.
Local purchase may not be the best option in every scenario. What is important is that the United States has the flexibility to respond to each scenario by choosing the method that reaches hungry people in the shortest amount of time.
Now is the time to raise your voice in support of food-aid reform. The Coast Guard bill goes to the Senate next for consideration. Bread for the World will strongly oppose any final legislation that includes cargo-preference restrictions that decrease funding for flexible food-aid programs. We must continue to let our members of Congress know that we support legislation that saves taxpayer dollars and increases efficiency, not legislation that takes food out of the mouths of the world’s hungry.
Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.
By Alyssa Casey
Since the crisis in Syria began more than three years ago, nearly 9.5 million people—almost half of Syria's population—have fled their homes. More than 2.5 million Syrian refugees have relocated to neighboring countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Their needs—for shelter, food, medical care, education, and employment opportunities—are great. At this critical time, what Syrians do not need is reduced support and assistance from the international community, including the United States. Unfortunately, under the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), this would likely be the case.
Ryan’s fiscal year 2015 budget resolution, released this week, proposes deep cuts to programs that provide relief to those affected by conflict in Syria, and other parts of the world. Ryan’s proposal cuts the International Affairs budget by a devastating 11 percent. As the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition points out, this funding level would mean a 24 percent decrease in the total International Affairs budget since 2010.
We all acknowledge the current tough fiscal environment, but we cannot let the poor and hungry bear the largest burden during these difficult times, as they so often do. As Bread for the World has previously noted, sequestration has already cut funding for life-saving international efforts, such as child and maternal health and international food aid. Now is not the time for additional cuts.
The International Affairs budget funds poverty-focused development assistance programs that provide emergency relief to those affected by conflict and disasters, saving countless lives. Last month, the World Food Program reported that food aid is now reaching previously inaccessible areas of Syria, providing much-needed relief to tens of thousands. The U.S. Agency for International Development helps fund critical programs that provide immediate needs such as food, water, shelter, and vaccinations to Syrian refugees. This funding also achieves longer-term goals such as education, psychological care, and job training to help refugees rebuild their lives.
Unfortunately, Syria is not unique. Crisis and conflict continue to fan the flames of hunger and poverty in South Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and other countries across the globe. Fortunately, we can help. As a nation, we must continue to offer life-saving assistance, and as individuals, we must continue to urge our members of Congress to support robust funding levels for international humanitarian and poverty-focused development accounts.
At a time when U.S. foreign assistance is saving lives every day, we cannot risk the progress that has been made by abandoning the funding that makes it possible. Rep. Ryan’s budget resolution is not the solution.
Alyssa Casey is a government relations intern at Bread for the World.
Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), recently took a trip to the Philippines to see how food-aid policy authorized in Washington D.C., is actualized in the wake of a disaster.
The Philippine Star reports Royce and eight other members House of Representatives visited the country to see how U.S. food aid has impacted the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The typhoon, which killed more than 6,000 Filipinos in November of last year, left survivors without food and resources as they dealt with toppled towns and broken lives. U.S. food aid is a critical part of their recovery.
Royce is the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; the authority to deliver emergency food aid and develop agricultural markets falls under the umbrella of the committee. Joining Royce on the trip were seven other members: Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Luke Messer (R-Ind). Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) also travelled with the delegation.
Immediately after the disaster hit, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $10 million to the World Food Program, to be used to buy food near the Philippines and in neighboring countries. The flexibility to purchase food locally was critical for a speedy response to the humanitarian disaster, and helped save lives. The funds were available through a policy that allowed for a small percentage of food aid funding to be used for local and regional purchase in farm bill legislation.
In a 2013 joint op-ed published in The Hill, Royce and Rep. Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.) write,
Experience shows that buying food closer to its distribution point is faster, cheaper, and helps save lives. In recent years, a small government pilot program has experimented with “local and regional purchase” efforts. The result? Aid that costs 25-50 percent less and is delivered 11 to 14 weeks faster than under the current system.
Royce and Engel are vocal champions of food aid on Capitol Hill, and helped push forward reforms, included in the recent farm bill, that are first steps in improving U.S. food aid. One policy revision includes an increase in the funding allotted to buy food locally and also makes permanent the local and regional purchase pilot. These reforms give USAID greater flexibility in how it responds to hunger.
There is much more that the United States should do to make international food aid more cost-effective and increase its reach. Churches across the country are helping this effort by participating in Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid." The letters make a huge impact on members of Congress, and help keep reform opportunities on the top of the congressional agenda.
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.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.