Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

69 posts categorized "Food Aid"

Return from Recess

Capitol 2
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

As summer draws to a close, members of Congress return to Washington for a short work period before entering the final campaign stretch before the midterm elections. Here are hunger-related items before Congress this fall:

Food-Aid Reform

Over the August recess, Bread has been urging senators to co-sponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act, introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). This food-aid reform legislation will free up as much as $440 million annually through greater efficiencies in delivering aid and enable U.S. food aid to reach up to nine million more people. Read more about the legislation at www.bread.org/indistrict. While this legislation may not become law this year, more co-sponsors will significantly help push the issue forward in the new Congress.

The Senate Commerce Committee was scheduled to mark up the Coast Guard reauthorization bill (S. 2444), but that mark-up was postponed before the August recess due to unrelated issues. There is no word on when the legislation will come back up in committee, but Bread will continue to encourage senators to omit the harmful cargo-preference provision that the House had. This harmful provision increases the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged carriers, costing the government an additional $75 million and would leave 2 million hungry people around the world without access to lifesaving food aid.

Immigration and Unaccompanied Children

In the weeks before the August recess, Congress was debating and crafting legislation to address the surge of unaccompanied children fleeing Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Read Bread’s bill analysis on the pieces of legislation that Congress considered before its recess at www.bread.org/indistrict.

Until recently, the debate has lacked much attention to the root causes of the crisis: poverty, hunger, and violence. However, during July, Bread activists sent over 10,000 emails to their senators and representatives, urging them to include these root causes as part of any legislation addressing the child refugee crisis. In meetings with congressional offices over the past few weeks, Bread staff have noticed that members of Congress are starting to incorporate root causes into their thinking about the issue.

When Congress returns, there will be two opportunities for legislators to address the child refugee crisis. Congress could pass a separate emergency supplemental spending bill as both the House and Senate were attempting to do before the recess. Alternatively, Congress could include provisions to address the crisis in the regular spending, or appropriations, bill, which is a “must-pass” piece of legislation to keep the government open. Congress will pass a short-term measure in September to get through the mid-term elections and will then revisit these appropriations decisions for the remainder of the fiscal year in December. Both periods offer an opportunity for Congress to add language addressing the surge of refugee children in the U.S.

Budget and Appropriations

In September, Congress will have to pass some sort of budget as the government's fiscal year ends at the end of the month. Congress may pass a continuing resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. The easiest route is to pass a clean CR that just extends current funding levels. However, both parties will push for certain spending add-ons, such as funding for the border or wildfires. Some Republicans could also press for additional spending cuts. Any CR is likely to last until mid-December to push any concerns over a shutdown beyond the mid-term elections.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's September online newsletter.

Ebola Crisis Expected to Become a Food Crisis

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Members of a women’s farming group harvest rice in Liberia. (David Benafel, USAID FED)

By Robin Stephenson

Rice farmers in Liberia’s Lofa County were celebrating a rice surplus earlier this year, helped by a U.S. funded program to increase agricultural productivity. The small-holder farmers, who previously produced just enough to consume themselves, were able to sell 125 bags of rice through their cooperative.

Front Page Africa wrote, “The year 2014 may go down in history for these farmers.”

It may, but not because of a banner year for rice.

2014 will go down in the history books for the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. More than 1,000 Liberians have been infected and more than half have died since May. The World Health Organization expects the number to increase by 12,000 in the next six months. But Ebola is only the beginning. The collateral damage from the outbreak is hunger, without increased interventions of food assistance. Neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone face a similar narrative. Now Nigeria and Senegal are also reporting cases of the virus.

Liberia is still struggling to recover from years of civil conflict. Rebuilding the infrastructure required to sustain a healthy economy as well as an effective public health care system takes time. Poverty rates in the West African country remain high and chronic malnutrition stands at 36 percent.

Rice harvests in Liberia, which occur September to December and are expected to be above average this year, will help mitigate hunger in the short term, but the outlook for the next hunger season is bleak. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) is predicating increased food insecurity throughout March of 2015 due to market disruptions and labor shortages. The World Food Program (WFP) reports that the majority of Ebola victims are between the ages of 15 and 45, which will reduce household incomes for hundreds of households.

Investments in projects focused on poverty before the outbreak will lessen the need for assistance later, but it won’t be enough. The WFP is bracing for more humanitarian need throughout the region.

Food insecurity in West Africa will just add to an already over-taxed food assistance system. Syrian and Iraqi refugees, and people threatened by looming famine in the Central African Republic and neighboring South Sudan are already in need of precious food aid resources.

It sounds overwhelming but we can do more with some of the resources we already have. By creating more flexibility in the U.S. food aid program, we can reach more people. Pilot reforms, such as those that buy food near a disaster instead of shipping commodities from the United States, have helped get food to millions more people and build resilience against future disasters.

If Congress passes the Food for Peace Reform Act (S.2421), we can reach 9 million more people and, during emergencies, deliver food two months faster and support local farmers, all without spending an extra dime of taxpayer money.

Smarter food aid can do more than reach more people. It can build on progress already made. Liberia has worked hard to make progress on hunger, with help from foreign donors like the United States. Sending commodities will help deal with hunger today, but buying locally will help strengthen their economy tomorrow.

When the last case of Ebola goes into the history books, smart food aid means Liberia can return to making progress on ending hunger.

The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. Take a moment to ask your senators to co-sponsor this bill.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer at Bread for the World.

 

Eleven Days and Three Big Issues: Will Congress Act?

Capitol
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

An expiring budget, food aid reform, and a humanitarian crisis at the border await Congress. After hearing from the voters, will Congress return from a five-week recess on September 8 ready to act on these connected issues?

Asked if it is possible, Amelia Kegan, Bread for the World’s deputy director of government relations, answers emphatically. “Absolutely. If they have the political will and make ending hunger a priority, they will work together.”

“These issues are too important for Congress to sit on any longer.”

The 2014 budget expires October 1. Congress has only 11 working days to pass a temporary extension before going on another break or face a government shutdown.

In addition to simply extending the budget, Congress should protect funding for WIC and maintain a strong safety net as the United States continues to recover from the Great Recession. As the economy slowly improves, further cuts could sink more Americans into deeper poverty.

Looming famine in South Sudan, drought in Latin America, and Ebola in West Africa are wreaking havoc with global food security – not to mention the millions of conflict-displaced families needing help in the Middle East. Efforts to address global hunger today mitigate food prices and global security concerns in the future.

Boosting poverty-focused development assistance is an investment that will decrease hunger in future food emergencies. Programs like Feed the Future, which take a long-term approach to building food security, are saving lives and building resilience in countries like Tanzania.

There is an opportunity to make our U.S. food aid—programs that respond to global disasters—do more with reform. Senators can build momentum for even more flexible and efficient food aid by cosponsoring the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) and holding a hearing during this session.

Funding smaller reforms passed in the farm bill will free up the funds needed to help more people now and expand programs that are already working. For example, Guatemala has some of the highest rates of malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere and is one of the countries children are fleeing for the U.S. southern border. Catherine Pascal Jiménez, who is featured in the 2014 Offering of Letters, can keep her children at home thanks to a U.S.-funded food-aid program.

Ignoring the humanitarian crisis at the border or criminalizing children who flee poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America will not stop the flow of migrants. Funding global anti-hunger programs that can address economic stability in the sending countries is a first step in stemming the tide of hungry people seeking refuge. Congress must act quickly with emergency funding on its return to Washington.

Swift action may be a tall order, and there is certainly a reason to be pessimistic with this unproductive Congress. However, this is a democracy, and as Kegan points out, “Members who don’t listen to voters don’t stay in Washington.”

Kegan says faithful advocates need to make a lot of noise as Congress returns to the nation’s capitol next week. “If enough people demand action, they will act.” 

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Flexible Food Aid Meets People Where They Are

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Reforms to make U.S. food aid more flexible will benefit farmers, like the one pictured from El Salvador, and local economies  to build resilience against future food insecurity. (Jim Stipe)

By Arnulfo Moreno

Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish? We all have that innate feeling to help someone when disaster strikes. Children should not have to go to bed hungry because a tsunami happened to hit their neighborhood or because they were living on a fault line. At the same time, aid should not destroy local economies in order to provide temporary relief. As this article highlights, the key is flexibility.

Most of the federal government's programs that deliver food aid were created in the 1950s, but many of the administrative policies haven’t changed since then. The global population in 1950 was 2.5 billion people. In 2010, the year most recent data is available, the population was more than 6.8 billion people and growing. The rigid restrictions on food aid did not take into account such growth or changes in agriculture technology and transportation, as well as cultural and political changes.

The most important thing that we can draw upon from this past half century is experience. We know that flooding a market with free food can paralyze local economies and has adverse effects on populations when the food is not common to the region. We have seen that having the flexibility to purchase food locally or to issue food vouchers benefits not only those receiving the assistance but also local farmers, businesses, and entrepreneurship.  

We can continue to invest in people and future trade partners by making food aid more potent. By allowing food to be purchased locally, we help those economies devastated by disasters, both natural and human-caused, and ensure that they become self-sufficient.

As a taxpayer, I want to make sure that my money is used to help those who need it, not to line the pockets of the shipping industry or other industries. Allowing food-aid programs the flexibility to choose the best transportation method and food-allocation method helps bring costs down and grants our government the ability to help millions more with no additional cost to taxpayers.

If we set aside money to help our brothers and sisters around the world, then we have to make sure that every penny is used as efficiently as possible. Food aid should have the flexibility to meet people where they are. Give people a fish and/or show them how to fish, depending on their circumstance—not on a rigid set of our outdated policies.   

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

Act Now: Let's Get Food Aid to 9 Million More People

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The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421) will reform U.S. food aid and feed more people at lower cost. Mothers and children, like these in South Sudan, will benefit from targeted nutrition. (USAID)

By Eric Mitchell

A future free of hunger will require good ideas. I want to share with you a really, really good idea.

Picture this: Our federal government provides life-saving food assistance to 9 million more people around the world who experience hunger every year. What’s more, during emergencies, we deliver food 2 months faster and support local farmers, all without spending an extra dime of taxpayer money.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. It’s called the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421), a bipartisan effort led by Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

So what's the problem? In short, time. The clock is ticking on this Congress.

Nine million people can't wait for congressional inaction. Will you take a moment to email your U.S. senators asking them to co-sponsor this bill?

Bread for the World has a long history of winning reforms for food aid. Bread members helped improve the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust in 1998. That fund will help with the current famine threatening South Sudan.

And yet, we can and must do better. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. Won't you please take a moment to ask your senators to co-sponsor this bill right now?

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Famine Looms: United States Announces Food Aid for South Sudan

14407911395_021caa6586_kBy Robin Stephenson

There has been a lot of bad news in the world lately.  Though it is not always reported, many of the grimmest stories also involve hunger.

The innocent in Iraq evade death on mountaintops where the lucky find food aid dropped from the sky. Elsewhere in the Middle East, families huddle together in refugee camps and pray for peace. Children who flee poverty and violence in Central America arrive at our southern border hungry and traumatized. And in South Sudan, where the atrocities of civil conflict drive families from their homes, hunger is about to get worse.

Famine – a human-made obscenity – looms over the landlocked country of South Sudan in northeastern Africa. The world’s newest country, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 but internal conflict has led to widespread food-insecurity. The United Nations is already struggling to feed an estimated 100,000 civilians. Sixteen-year old Nyiel Kutch, her mother, and five siblings made it to a Ugandan refugee camp in December of last year. She told The Guardian, “The place here is good, but the food is not enough for us.”

A hunger crisis becomes famine when four out of every 10,000 children die every day. Experts predict that South Sudan will qualify as early as December. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters that 50,000 children under age five were at risk of dying of malnutrition in the coming months.

Yesterday, the United States announced it will send $180 million in emergency food aid to address the crisis. The funds will be distributed from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. The trust is a food reserve set aside and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to respond to unexpected food crises in developing countries.

Your advocacy efforts in the past are helping to feed hungry people in South Sudan today. Bread for the World was instrumental in the expansion and restructuring of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust as part of the organization's 1998 Offering of Letters campaign, Africa: Seeds of Hope. Advocacy work started even earlier – 1977 and 1978 – when Bread activists began lobbying their members of Congress to establish the legislation.

In front of us is yet another opportunity that will pay dividends in the future. Changes in U.S. food aid policy can build resilience against future catastrophes. Food aid that takes into account the quality of food and not just quantity can stem the tide of needless deaths from malnutrition. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421).

We can unlock food aid from archaic policy. By increasing program efficiency, flexibility, and improving the nutritional value of food aid, we can help 9 million more people – people like 16-year Nyiel Kutch – who deserve a future free of hunger.

While the news today may be overwhelming, as people of faith called to end hunger and love our neighbors. We must rise to the challenge and act for tomorrow. Urge your senators to cosponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act.

Learn more about food aid reform here:  www.bread.org/indistrict

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Photo:  South Sudan. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)

Illinois Faith Leaders Reflect on Global Hunger, Call for Food Aid Reform

Guatamala
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Zach Schmidt

What do your faith and experience say about global hunger and how has that compelled you to act?

We are called to widen our circle of concern to serve our neighbors across the street and across the globe. This was the consensus among faith leaders in Chicago’s North Shore communities during recent discussions on faith and hunger. As part of a broader campaign to reform U.S. food aid, we have been hosting a series of conversations with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the Chicago area over the summer. Participants have been challenged and enriched by hearing from those of different faiths and practices. While the language and supporting scriptures differ, the leaders have found common ground in the fight against hunger.

Bread for the World’s campaign calls on members of Congress to reform U.S. international food aid, so it can better respond to humanitarian emergencies and strengthen vulnerable communities against future catastrophes. The campaign also includes statewide faith leaders sign-on letters, and the Illinois letter alone has garnered more than 170 faith leaders’ signatures and counting. We continue to urge U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to lead on this issue.

Some of the leaders and their congregations, like Rabbi Wendi Geffen and North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois, are already well-acquainted with advocating for reform. Rabbi Geffen’s congregation wrote letters last year in support of food aid reform in partnership with American Jewish World Service, an ally with Bread for the World on this issue. Others leaders are deeply committed to global development projects but have not yet engaged in advocacy. But once the issue is presented and the case is made that we can help millions more hungry people, more quickly, while building long-term resilience, and more efficiently utilize our taxpayer dollars, the response becomes, “Well, what are we waiting for?”

Over the past few months, there have been a handful of votes in Congress that affect food aid. Faith leaders have been briefed and have weighed in on these votes. But we can help even more people through reforms embodied in the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421). This bill would make our food aid more flexible and efficient, freeing up as much as $440 million per year to feed up to 9 million more people faster. The bill makes common sense reforms, including ending the constraints that require our food aid to be grown in the United States and shipped on designated (and more costly) vessels. This adds substantial time and cost to the delivery of food aid, a matter of life-and-death when we are responding to hunger and humanitarian disasters in places like Haiti, Syria and South Sudan.

Faith leaders in the Chicago area—and across the country—are saying the status quo is unacceptable and indefensible, and it’s time for change. Urge your senator to co-sponsor S. 2421 and help build momentum to pass the bill.

Fact Sheet: International Food Aid Reform

Bill Analysis: Food for Peace Reform Act

Zach Schmidt is regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

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 Grandmothers in Jinja, Uganda. The proportion of undernourished people in the developing world decreased from 23.2 percent in 1990–1992 to 14.9 percent in 2010–2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

"Among other success stories, growth and sustainability in Africa are a testament to the fact that targeted foreign assistance works. The sub-Saharan African countries that received the most assistance in the past 10 years have made, on average, twice as much progress in areas like health and literacy as the continent overall.”

-David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, writes about this year’s U.S.-Africa Summit in a Huffington Post piece, “Africa Restores Our Belief That Ending Hunger Is Possible.” 

Beckman highlights three pieces of legislation that will maintain progress on ending extreme poverty on the continent of Africa and across the globe. The Corker-Coons bill (S.2421) to reform food aid, the Feed the Future initiative, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are all critical pieces of legislation that Congress should pass to redouble our efforts to end hunger around the world.

For additional background from Bread for the World Institute, read:  "The Push Up Decade: CADDP" and "A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

Africa Leaders Summit Coming to Washington, D.C. Aug 4-6

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A woman in Lusaka, Zambia, carries water from the well to her house. (Margaret W. Nea)

The White House will host a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week in Washington, D.C.  Bread for the World will urge the administration, Congress, and Africa's leaders to redouble their efforts to end hunger in Africa and around the world, encouraging support of three pieces of legislation that would make food aid more effective, enable farmers to grow more food, and open more trade options. 

“Progress in Africa shows that we can end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide in our time,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We celebrate the impressive progress by African nations but much more needs to be done to end hunger in Africa and worldwide."

 In a statement to the press, “Bread for the World Urges Redoubling of Efforts to End Hunger in Africa” released today, Beckmann outlined three key pieces of legislation for ending hunger in Africa:

S.2421, or the Corker-Coons bill, recently introduced in the Senate. It will be the first time that the U.S. food aid program will be extensively reformed and will make the program more effective.

The Feed the Future initiative.This program launched in 2010 and is already enabling smaller farmers in Africa to grow more food. Bread for the World urges Congress to pass legislation authorizing this successful program into law.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Passed in 2000, this act needs to be reauthorized next year. The next phase of AGOA should aim to increase, as it has, trade opportunities for African farmers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

To participate in the events virtually, follow @bread4theworld on our Twitter feed and the event hashtags: #USAfricaSummit and #TheAfricaWeWant. Using social media, you can join the conversation and remind decision-makers that ending hunger in Africa and around the globe matters to people of faith.

For additional background from Bread for the World Institute, read:  "The Push Up Decade: CADDP" and "A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

To learn more, watch the video from Voice of America below. VOA’s Vincent Makori talks to Faustine Wabwire, Senior Foreign Assistance Policy Analyst at Bread for the World, about the expectations of the U.S.-Africa Summit, feeding the future, and reaching the goal of ending hunger by 2030.

Elections and Building the Political Will to End Hunger

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Bread for the World member Derick Daily talks about hunger and poverty with staff of Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark), in Washington D.C., on June 10, 2014. (Rick Reinhard)

By Robin Stephenson

Members of Congress will leave behind a lot of unfinished business when they head to their home states and districts for August recess at the end of the week. Anti-hunger advocates should send them back to Washington, D.C., in November with clear orders to get to work on ending hunger.

This is an election year and all 435 members of the House and 33 senators are running for reelection. There will be many public events where anti-hunger advocates can talk to their elected or soon-to-be elected officials about hunger and poverty.  Bread for the World has created a set of resources to help advocates start a conversation. These  include a guide to speaking up about hunger at Town Halls and updated voting records so you know how your members of Congress have voted on issues of hunger and poverty.

If outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss earlier this year taught elected officials anything, it’s that they can’t ignore district concerns. Bread wants to help end hunger by 2030. To do that, we need to help build the political will to make hunger a national priority by 2017.  “All politics are local,” said Bread for the World’s director of government relations Eric Mitchell during last month’s national webinar and conference call.  “There won't be pressure to change anything unless they hear from local constituents.” And there is plenty to talk about.

The United States is poised to make huge strides in improving food aid that does more than just feed people in a crisis but helps build resilience so they can weather the next storm. Urging lawmakers to cosponsor The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421) will help build the political will to reform U.S. food aid. Furthermore, Congress should be reminded that faithful advocates oppose provisions that would decrease food aid by increasing transportation costs by shipping more food from the United States.

At public events, we must get members of Congress talking about how they will address the root causes that are driving millions of children to flee Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Lawmakers are focused on the border between the United States and Mexico and not on the source of the problem. Congress should allocate funds in the 2015 budget for programs that can help alleviate hunger and poverty in Central America. However, appropriators are proposing to cut poverty-focused development assistance.

Recent data reports the job market is finally improving, yet more than 3 million long-term unemployed are left without emergency unemployment benefits. The end of the recession has not reached all Americans. Safety net programs to alleviate hunger for low-income families are still the first items on the chopping block. Prioritizing a jobs agenda will make ending hunger in America possible.

“We are not advocating electing one party or another,” said director of organizing LaVida Davis. “As people of faith, our task is to change the conversation and make ending hunger a priority for our elected officials.”

Hunger affects all of us. Making hunger an election issue is how we can build the political will to end it.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

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