Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

21 posts categorized "Food Aid"

U.S. Food Aid: Helping Those Who've Lost Everything

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U.S. food-aid products at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. (Stephen H. Padre)

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.

2014 Offering of Letters: 'I Feel Happier Now"

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.


2014 Offering of Letters: Help Write Hunger into History

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.

Conversations on Food Aid: Farm Bill Wrap-Up

LWS_food_aidAfter 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)

Farm Bill Passes House: Thank You for Your Advocacy

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

Introducing Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters

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.

Introduciendo la Ofrenda de Cartas 2014 de Pan para el Mundo

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.

Thank You, Congress, for the Food

Food-aid-padreBy Angela Rupchock-Schafer

It’s been pretty easy to hate on Congress lately. Its approval ratings are at lows that haven’t been seen since, well, forever. It seems every other story out of Washington, D.C., is about dysfunction and gridlock over legislation. But I’m not here to bash members of Congress today, but to celebrate something they have done right. Congress is continuing a long, and life-saving, history of bipartisan support for international food aid programs, and, in the process, helping make that aid more efficient and capable of helping even more vulnerable people around the world.

I was taught to thank someone when they deserve it. So here goes. I want to send a very sincere "thank you" to House and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairs Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Ranking Members Sen. Richard Shelby(R-Ala.), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Why are these members of Congress so deserving of thanks? Because they included a reform to international food aid in the fiscal year 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act that will help increase the number of people the United States can reach with the Food for Peace program. Food for Peace means exactly what its title suggests: the United States helping families and communities feed themselves and become empowered for peace.

As Norman Borlaug said, “If you desire peace, cultivate justice, but at the same time cultivate the fields to produce more bread; otherwise there will be no peace.” International food aid programs  have typically enjoyed robust bipartisan support as a way to promote peace around the globe, and I’m ecstatic to see that tradition continued. It is in our economic self-interest as a country, not to mention the morally right thing to do.

As debate continues on the farm bill, I think it’s vital that we remember that decades of bipartisan support for hunger and poverty-fighting programs have helped lift economies that were formerly mired in poverty into some of our largest trading partners today. There is still so much we can do to modernize food aid, make it a more efficient and cost-effective use of tax payer money, and still help so many in desperate need around the globe. The solutions exist, and what we need are members of Congress who are wise enough to act on them. 

When I told my husband I was going to write a blog post today about the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, his eyes glazed over immediately. I think that is perhaps the normal reaction. But I wish it wasn’t so. We need, as a country, to be more fully engaged with our elected officials. We need to thank them when we think they’ve done the right thing. We need to gently prod them, call their offices, and write letters to the editors of our newspapers so that they'll know when we think they are looking at an issue or policy the wrong way. We need to stop rolling our eyes at their antics, and instead hold them accountable for their actions. We need to work together again and get stuff done.

We need to, in short, thank them today for what they’ve done right—and work hard to make sure we have a reason to thank them tomorrow. The farm bill and decisions about SNAP funding levels await. I, for one, am ready to make my calls. Are you?

Angela Rupchock-Schafer is social media manager at CWS and an incoming Bread for the World board member. This article originally appeared on the CWS Blog.

Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food-aid items to people affected by drought in Swaziland. Recently, U.S. lawmakers approved a Senate provision that would earmark budget funds for greater food aid flexibility (Stephen H. Padre).

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

"U.S. food aid has played a significant role in preventing hunger and starvation, but we can do better. With smart improvements, our government can respond more quickly when disaster hits. 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. We can better support small-scale farmers in other countries by buying food closer to where it is needed. This is why I am asking you to use the power of influence God has entrusted to each of you to help our neighbors around the world."

—Bread for the World President David Beckmann on reforming U.S. food aid

Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters, "Reforming U.S. Food Aid," invites you to urge Congress to make changes that would allow food aid to benefit 17 million more people each year — at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers.

Join us by conducting an Offering of Letters with your congregation, on your campus, or with one of the groups with which you participate. We can provide you with the resources you need to successfully organize an Offering of Letters and engage your members of Congress. The 2014 Offering of Letters will be available in mid-January. The kit will also be available online at www.bread.org/OL.

Learn more about this year's Offering of Letters during this afternoon's grassroots conference call and webinar (RSVP for today's event).

Photo: Catarina Pascual Jimenez (center) feeds her two twins. Catarina works odd jobs such as washing clothes and menial labor in order to earn a few Quetzales (Guatemalan currency). She is the mother of four. She and the children were abandoned by her husband which left her and the children without income. She manages to feed her children through small rations provided by a USAID program designed to help mothers and children (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World). 

Farm Bill Report Coming Soon

Rep. McGovern has been giving a series of #EndHungerNow speeches over the past year.

“It is a scandal that in the richest country in the history of world we have a hunger problem . . . There are some things worth fighting for, ending hunger, making sure our fellow citizens have enough to eat is absolutely worth fighting for.”

- Rep. Jim McGovern (D,Mass-2) speaking on the House floor Jan. 8, 2014, in remembrance of the War on Poverty and the farm bill. 

On Nov. 1, 2013, all SNAP (formerly food stamps) households experienced a cut in benefits, which took food off the tables of families who do not have enough to eat. More Americans are depending on already strapped food banks and charities to fill the gap. Federal nutrition programs deliver more than 23 times the amount of food assistance as do private charities; charities alone can not feed everyone who is hungry.

The farm bill conference committee is expected to release a report soon. The compromise bill will then go back to the House and Senate for a final vote. As we follow progress of the bill, anti-hunger advocates will need to be vigilant and persistent to ensure harmful amendments are not included in a final bill and common sense U.S. food aid reforms are included.  Even if you have already called or written your member of Congress in 2013, make sure they hear from you again in 2014.

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