Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

19 posts categorized "Food Aid"

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.

2013: Year in Review and a Look Ahead


Farm work in rural Guatemala (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (2 Corinthians 9: 11-12 NIV)

In 2013, the generosity of Bread for the World members in time, talent, and treasure has borne fruit in the mission to end hunger. You helped us reach our year-end fundraising goals and helped set the foundation of support for our work in 2014. The year will start with a packed agenda as we ask Congress to extend emergency unemployment insurance, pass a farm bill that protects SNAP (formerly food stamps) and strengthens U.S. food aid, and urge passage of an immigration reform bill that helps end hunger both here and abroad. January’s packed agenda will also include ensuring programs such as WIC and Head Start as well as poverty-focused development assistance get sufficient funding for the remainder of the fiscal year though the appropriations process. Our 2014 Offering of Letters, launching later this month, will urge Congress to update and reform U.S. food aid, which could benefit 17 million more people each year.

As we look back on 2013 one thing is clear: your willingness to reach out to your members of Congress and tell them to make hunger and poverty a priority made the difference. In a hostile budget climate and with continued threats of deep cuts to anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs, our 2013 Offering of Letters targeted both Congress and the White House for the first time.

Through the Offering of Letters, you urged Congress to protect critical programs and petitioned the president to set a goal to end hunger. As a result of our work in 2012, the president’s 2013 State of the Union address called for an end to extreme poverty in the United States and around the world. We continued to message the president and received more than 40,000 signatures on our petition to President Obama, which we hand-delivered to the White House in August.

Bread for the World prevented harmful cuts to SNAP, successfully blocking $135 billion in SNAP cuts in the federal budget, and a House of Representatives proposal to cut the program by $40 billion.

During October’s government shutdown and near default on the debt ceiling, we worked with our faith partners to re-open the government and prevent service disruptions that would have disproportionately affected struggling families.

And although the latest budget deal was far from perfect, final legislation replaced part of the 2014 and 2015 sequester with a balance of spending cuts and revenues – an ask our members took with them to their members of Congress during the 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. The hard work of Bread members helped ensure that those cuts also stayed balanced between defense and non-defense programs.

Finally, thanks to the efforts of Bread for the World and our partners over the last few years, some of our work came to fruition in 2013. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, which calls for increased and improved monitoring of U.S. foreign assistance and its impact. We are optimistic that the full Senate will take up this bill and pass it in 2014.

As we look ahead to 2014, we are assured that through faith and action we can do great things together.

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