56 posts categorized "Food Aid"
Rev. Dave Buerstetta blesses an offering of letters at the Woodridge United Methodist church outside of Chicago, Ill. Assisting him are Jason Shubert (l) and Tim Waynick. (Patti Cash)
Rev. Dave Buerstetta of Woodridge United Methodist Church in Chicago, Ill., recently added his name to a letter asking his senator to protect food aid. We asked him why he thought it was important for the faith community to be part of the conversation on food aid with Congress. Here is what he said:
Loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbors as ourselves requires seeking justice. Seeking justice requires trying to change the cultural systems that make, and keep, people poor or hungry or oppressed. So seeking justice – transforming systems to better emulate the Reign of God on earth, for which we pray every single week – requires advocacy.
We have some neighbors who are hungry. We have other neighbors who are members of Congress with the power to keep 2 million more neighbors from becoming hungry. Of course we should talk with members of Congress about this! We cannot let ourselves be scared off from the vital work of justice advocacy simply because doing so means engaging in the political process. That's how systems are changed.
In other words, in addition to being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, we must also seek to be the voice of Jesus in the world, speaking with and for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed. That is why I added my name to the letter; that is why I hope you will too.
Buerstetta practices what he preaches. The letter to his Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), asking him to protect food aid for 2 million people is an example of seeking justice and loving our neighbor. As a leader in Congress, Sen. Durbin can influence policy that affects how much food the United States can deliver to people in need overseas — and as a constituent, Buerstetta can influence Sen.Durbin.
Legislation recently passed by the House of Representatives would decrease the amount of assistance the U.S. can give while increasing profits for shipping companies. The Senate is now writing its version of the bill, and we are asking senators that any legislation to increase transportation costs for shipping food aid be stripped from the bill. Several senators have been targeted as having particular influence at this time. We are asking faith leaders from Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia to urge their senators to protect U.S. food aid. The letters will be delivered in person on Tuesday, June 10.
You can read more about Rev. Buerstetta’s work in the Nov. 2012 edition of Bread for the World’s newsletter.
Rick Steves, television and radio personality, travel expert, and longtime Bread for the World member, wrote an opinion piece on U.S. food aid that was published in The Seattle Times yesterday. In his guest contribution, titled "Protect U.S. food aid from the shipping industry," Steves, a resident of Washington state, asks Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to protect food aid. He also calls on Washington voters to support her efforts to do so.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that included a provision that would increase the cost of shipping food aid by at least $75 million. This increase would mean 2 million fewer hungry people would benefit from lifesaving food-aid programs. The bill is now being considered by the Senate Commerce Committee, of which Cantwell is a member. Bread for the World is asking the committee members to strip any provisions that would increase transportation costs for food aid.
A frequent traveler, Steves has a perspective on global hunger that motivates him to advocate that U.S. food aid be made more efficient. In his guest post, he writes:
I care about this issue in part because of my work as a travel writer. Having spent a third of my adult life overseas, it’s clear to me: While we are a compassionate society, we can be oblivious to the consequences that some of our choices have on struggling people. Sure, we have our economic challenges. But 90 percent of humanity would love to have our crisis. Half of humanity is struggling to survive on $2 a day. When you travel, you understand that’s a real crisis.
I believe that, even if motivated only by greed and national security interests, if U.S. citizens know what’s good for ourselves and our country, we don’t want to be extremely wealthy in a world with lots of hunger. U.S. food aid, which saves millions of lives each year, is vital in combating this challenge. And making every food-aid dollar count is a responsible use of taxpayer money, a moral imperative and in America’s interest.
Read the piece in its entirety on The Seattle Times website.
Bread for the World is asking Washington state faith leaders to sign a letter to Sen. Cantwell asking her to protect U.S. food aid. The letter, addressed to Cantwell and other members of the Senate Commerce Committee, will be delivered June 10 during Bread for the World's Lobby Day.
Learn more about Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters: Reforming U.S. Food Aid on the Offering of Letters website.
Wealthy shipping companies, mostly foreign-owned, have lobbied for more profit for themselves at the expense of 2 million hungry people, and the House of Representatives has sanctioned it. It’s a boondoggle — it's not only a waste of time and money, it goes against our nation's values.
This subsidy to the world’s largest shipping conglomerates was quietly included as a provision in the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill for fiscal year 2015, which passed by voice vote in the House. The legislation would increase, from 50 to 75 percent, the amount of food aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. As a result, the cost of shipping food aid would increase by at least $75 million, and 2 million fewer hungry people would be reached.
This provision has nothing to do with the U.S. Coast Guard and is a blatant attempt by special interests to line their own pockets while more people overseas go hungry.
Cornell University’s Christopher Barrett and Bucknell University’s Erin Lentz expose the level of depravity the shipping lobby has reached in “Highway robbery on the high seas," a recent article in The Hill. In addition to limiting food aid, they state that the legislation would also limit competition and restrict public comment. “These anti-competitive restrictions, which enable much more expensive shipping rates than competitor vessels would charge, generate windfall profits to a few, mainly foreign companies who operate U.S.-flagged vessels through domestic subsidiaries,” they write.
I have been meeting with members of the Senate Commerce Committee, who are writing their version of the bill. Our goal is to strip the provision from the Senate bill in committee. A common argument for increasing cargo preference relies on the idea that not doing so will result in U.S. job losses. Barrett and Lentz point out that earlier reforms, which reduced cargo preference, did not result in any lost jobs. In addition, they write, “this type of indirect subsidy is so inefficient that any job created comes at a taxpayer cost of about $100,000.”
In 2010, Barrett and Lentz were part of a research team that conducted a rigorous peer-reviewed analysis on agricultural cargo preference policy (ACP). Their conclusion was that ACP is not cost effective or efficient, does not increase military readiness, and does not substantially affect the labor market. ACP does, however, squander scare food-aid resources intended to help alleviate hunger.
Opposition to the ACP provision is clearly bipartisan. Organizations as diverse as The Heritage Foundation and The Center for American Progress agree that that increasing cargo preference is a step backward.
I am asking you to sign a petition, which I intend to deliver to Capitol Hill next week. Regional organizers are asking for faith leaders to add their names to sign-on letters targeting some key members on the committee, which they will deliver in person on June 10.
Lives are at stake. We have seen the difference flexibility made after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and U.S. food aid helped save lives. An estimated 5 million people in South Sudan need humanitarian assistance urgently — after fleeing violence, mothers now fear famine will claim their children. Right now we must not undo the progress made on food-aid reform, nor turn our backs to those in need when we have the means to help.
Ryan Quinn is a senior policy analyst in the government relations department at Bread for the World.
Photo: Lutheran Development Service distributes food to people affected by drought in Swaziland in 2004. (Stephen H. Padre/Bread for the World)
(Left to right): Kay DeBlance, Rebecca Walker, Aaron Marez and David Ramos of Texas walk through the Russell Senate Office Building on their way to a meeting during Bread for the World's 2012 Lobby Day. If you can't join us in person for this year's Lobby Day, please support our efforts by pledging to call your members of Congress: www.bread.org/call. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
By Eric Mitchell
Right now, we're at a turning point in the fight to end hunger.
There are two issues — food-aid reform and immigration reform — that are making their way through Congress right now, and decisions made by legislators in the coming weeks could impact our work to end hunger for years to come. Millions of people could be affected. During this critical time, hundreds of Bread members will be gathering in Washington, D.C., for our annual Lobby Day, and urging Congress to do the right thing. But in order to make the most of this opportunity, we need your voice.
We have a real opportunity to advance food-aid reform and immigration reform—two issues that are central to our goal of ending hunger. Here are the messages we’re taking to Congress on Lobby Day:
- Pass immigration reform without delay! Immigration reform will reduce hunger by ensuring immigrants receive fairer wages and work in better conditions. Our Christian faith calls on us to welcome the stranger, and with Congress’ attention already turning to the November elections, the window for a vote on major legislation is closing quickly. Congress must act now to provide a path to legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- Reject changes to food aid that hurt the hungry! An obscure provision before Congress would change the transportation requirements for U.S. food aid in a way that would make the process of getting food to people in need slower and more expensive. Two million people would go without lifesaving food aid just to pad the bottom lines of a few powerful shipping companies, and that’s not right. Congress must reject any action that increases transportation costs for food aid and support common sense food-aid reforms.
With hundreds of Bread members coming to Washington just as these issues are being debated in Congress, we have a huge opportunity to effect change. But we need our entire Bread community — including you — to really have an impact. We need to make sure Congress hears a loud chorus of Christian voices.
Help end hunger by raising your voice. You are an important part of Bread for the World and we need your help — your at-home advocacy on June 9 will strengthen our in-person advocacy efforts on June 10.
So what do you say? Will you stand with us at this critical time? This kind of opportunity doesn't come around often. I hope to have you with us.
Eric Mitchell is Bread for the World's director of government relations.
Before receiving assistance from the Food for Peace program, Davane Mesa Paulo was struggling with just a hectare of land and a few crops that he grew for food. "Hunger ran away from my house," he said recently. "So people started coming to ask how." (Bita Rodriguez/USAID)
Food-aid reform came out as a winner in yesterday’s Senate Appropriation Committee agriculture bill markup. The 2015 spending bill, which sets funding amounts for the U.S. programs that deliver emergency and humanitarian food assistance, will include $35 million for food-aid reform efforts. The funds would help food aid reach an estimated 200,000 more people in need.
However, the spending bill still has a long way to go before the Oct. 1 deadline – the start of the fiscal year. Once the final bill passes out of the Appropriations Committee, it will then go to the floor for a vote from the full Senate. Finally, if there is normal process, it will be conferenced with the House version of the bill.
Bread for the World and its members are urging Congress to update food-aid policy to better meet the needs of hungry people facing natural disasters, food insecurity and malnutrition, famine, civil strife, and other extraordinary circumstances. Thousands of letters from Christians have already arrived in offices on Capitol Hill, building the momentum for bipartisan efforts to reform food aid— as we saw in yesterday’s vote.
The food-aid amendment was introduced thanks to the efforts of Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Before the committee vote, Sen. Johanns said, “Literally, people live or die by the decision we make here." The vote of 16 ayes to 14 nays was strongly bipartisan. Last minute efforts on the part of grassroots anti-hunger advocates, who made a lot of noise in support of the bill, helped push the amendment forward.
The funds will help replace the practice of monetization — in which aid organizations resell food-aid products in local markets to support development work, but can undercut local farmers in the process. The more flexibility administrators have in implementing Food For Peace, the more efficient the development programs can become, allowing thousands of additional people to better feed themselves and escape hunger. Flexibility in design and implementation also helps us build resilience against future emergencies.
“This is significant and shows that there is a strong desire for reform that crosses party lines,” says Ryan Quinn, senior policy analyst at Bread for the World. “We can build on this,” he said, “but keep in mind that we are also facing cuts if the Senate Commerce Committee includes a cargo-preference provision in a bill they are starting to write.”
The House recently passed a Coast Guard reauthorization bill that included a provision to increase transportation costs for food aid. This would limit the amount of food aid the U.S. could provide, and program costs would come out of Food for Peace funds. We are currently reaching out to faith leaders in committee member’s states and organizing sign-on letters to stop the provision in a Senate bill.
“This was a real win for hungry people and sets us on the right path,” said Quinn. “We should feel good and know our voices are making a difference. But, he cautions, "in a world where 842 million people go to bed hungry every day, and crises situations like Syria and South Sudan are getting worse, we have to keep this momentum going.”
Update, 12:55 p.m., 5/22: By a vote of 16 ayes to 14 nays, the Johanns-Leahy Amendment passed in the appropriations committee markup! Thank you advocates! This is a significant victory, but we must still be vigilant as the bill moves through the committee and the rest of Congress.
URGENT action needed! The Senate Appropriations Committee is considering its fiscal year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill tomorrow morning, and Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) are introducing an amendment to provide $35 million for food-aid reform efforts.
This funding will increase flexibility and improve efficiency of U.S. food aid, allowing this vital assistance to reach more people in a timely manner.
We need your help to reach out to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and ask them to support the Johanns-Leahy amendment.
Please contact members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and tell them to vote in favor of the Johanns-Leahy amendment to provide $35 million for flexibility of food aid in the Agriculture Appropriations bill. This funding will help feed an additional 200,000 people in need!
A full list of the appropriators is below; call 800-326-4941 to be connected to the Capitol switchboard.
If you're on Twitter, you can also tweet the appropriators.
Sample tweet: .@SenatorBarb help #foodaid reach more people in need! Support the Johanns-Leahy amendment ow.ly/x7LWH "
Senate Appropriations Committee:
Alabama: Sen. Richard Shelby @SenShelbyPress Ranking member
Sen. Mark Begich @SenatorBegich
Sen. Lisa Murkowski @lisamurkowski
Sen. John Boozman @JohnBoozman
Sen. Mark Pryor @SenMarkPryor
Delaware: Sen. Chris Coons @SenCoonsOffice
California: Sen. Diane Feinstein @SenFeinstein
Sen. Richard Durbin @SenatorDurbin
Sen. Mark Kirk @SenatorKirk
Iowa: Sen. Tom Harkin @SenatorHarkin
Indiana: Sen. Dan Coats @SenDanCoats
Louisianna: Sen. Mary Landrieu @SenLandrieu
Kansas: Sen. Jerry Moran @JerryMoran
Kentucky: Sen Mitch McConnell @McConnellPress
Maine: Sen. Susan Collins @SenatorCollins
Maryland: Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski @SenatorBarb chair
Mississippi: Sen. Thad Cochran @SenThadCochran
Missouri: Sen. Roy Blunt @RoyBlunt
Montana: Sen. Jon Tester @JonTester
New Hampshire: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen @SenatorShaheen
New Mexico: Sen. Tom Udall @SenatorTomUdall
North Dakota: Sen John Hoeven @SenJohnHoeven
Oregon: Sen. Jeff Merkley @SenJeffMerkley
Rhode Island: Sen. Jack Reed @SenJackReed
South Carolina: Sen. Lindsey Graham @GrahamBlog
South Dakota: Sen. Tim Johnson @SenJohnsonSD
Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander @SenAlexander
Washington: Sen. Patty Murray @PattyMurray
Chili is an all-year crop that provides an alternative and sustainable source of income to Kenyan farmers due to its resiliency to drought. To expand the productivity of chili farmers in Siaya County, a USAID project in Kenya is engaging in new partnerships with farmer/producer organizations to enhance access to credit that would enable farmers to obtain high-quality farm inputs and adopt modern farming methods. (Feed the Future/Antony Okonji)
Feed the Future, the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) initiative to address global hunger and poverty, is now four years old. It is, by all accounts, a success: its programs have helped 7 million smallholder farmers and saved 12.5 million children from hunger and poverty, according to its recently released progress report. Yesterday, at the Feed the Future forum— a Washington, D.C., gathering of global leaders from the public and private sectors —Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann lauded the initiative and U.S. leadership in work to end hunger. “With 842 million people around the world still going hungry every day, now is the time to invest more in programs like Feed the Future," he said, adding that it is a "model of effectiveness."
But Beckmann also warned that Congress is currently poised to undo progress that has been made in addressing worldwide hunger and poverty.
A little-known provision slipped into a recent House bill increases something called "cargo preference," which effectively raises the transportation costs for food aid. This move benefits a few foreign-owned shipping companies, but takes away $75 million per year from U.S. international food-aid programs. This would limit the food aid our nation can provide in times of crisis.
“Now is not the time to reverse reforms to U.S. food-aid programs,” Beckmann said.
“We won some reform in this year’s farm bill, but in other legislation, the subsidized shippers managed to increase their subsidies at the expense of 1.4 million fewer people receiving food aid every year,” Beckmann continued. “Recently, the shipping lobby managed to convince the House of Representatives to increase their subsidy by directly taking away food aid from another 2 million hungry people. It is unconscionable to steal food from 3.4 million people hungry just to give more subsidies to three of the world’s largest shipping companies.”
While U.S. food aid does a lot of good in the world, requiring that nearly all the food commodities come from this country and be shipped by a few U.S.-flagged ships is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but puts the profits of shipping conglomerates before the needs of millions of people suffering from hunger and living in dire poverty.
Read Bread for the World's press release on the Feed the Future forum for more on Beckmann's remarks, and visit blog.bread.org/food-aid/ for updates on food-aid reform and cargo preference.
The Christian voice is unique. It carries with it the power of faith, the conviction of morality, and it is grounded in compassion for humanity. Christians don’t have special interests – they have God’s interest for the world at heart.
When special interests in Washington D.C., push for legislation that would take life-saving food from at least 2 million hungry people, just to turn a profit, your voice can stop it. Sign a letter to legislators and tell them to protect food aid.
Last month, the House of Representatives passed the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, legislation that will drastically impact the United States' ability to provide vital food aid to millions of hungry people worldwide. The House slipped in a provision that increases the percentage of U.S. food aid required to be shipped on private U.S. shipping vessels. In effect, this takes away an additional $75 million per year from the much-needed U.S. international food-aid programs. This would limit the food aid we can provide in times of crisis.
The Senate must now write its version of the bill and commerce committee members are expected to begin work in the next few weeks. The provision (Section 318) in the House bill (H.R. 4005) cannot be present in the Senate bill. Tell senators that the faith community strongly opposes any legislation that increases transportation costs and decreases the effectiveness of U.S. international food-aid programs.
Never has the call to be the light of the world more important. Please sign a letter telling your senators that they should not consider taking food from hungry people in order to support a few shipping companies. If you have a senator on the commerce committee, your voice is especially important.
Regional organizers are working hard to help your voice reach Washington, D.C., and influence the lawmakers that can stop this harmful provision from becoming law. If you live in one of the states listed below and are a faith leader, please click on the highlighted link and add your signature – it only takes a moment. If you are a parishioner, please consider asking leaders in your faith community to sign. For more details, contact the regional organizer listed next to each state. We will hand deliver the letters June 10.
With the stroke of a pen, lawmakers make decisions each day that can increase or decrease hunger. With the stroke of a pen, you can shine a light on an injustice that must never be written into law.
Organizer: Matt Newell-Ching
Organizer: Jon Gromek
Organizer: Matt Gross
Organizer: Zach Schmidt
Organizer: Robin Stephenson
Organizer: Matt Newell-Ching
Organizer: Matt Newell-Ching
Organizer: Zach Schmidt
Organizer: Jon Gromek
By now you have likely heard that a provision that would limit the amount of U.S. food aid available to help hungry people was added to a Coast Guard reauthorization bill passed by the House. This decision, which could take food away from more than 2 million vulnerable people, was made without accountability or transparency, but media attention is helping to bring the provision to light. Members of the public and members of Congress are becoming aware of the harmful provision, which primarily benefits foreign-owned shipping companies.
Bread for the World members advocated for and won reforms in the recent farm bill that would make food aid more flexible and able to help more people at no additional cost—the provision in the House bill threatens to undo some of that progress. The Senate commerce committee will consider the bill next, and is expected to begin writing its own version in the next few weeks.
In a recent Huffington Post piece, Bread for the World President David Beckmann writes:
"Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us to "speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Special-interest favors to the shipping industry should not create additional hardship for hungry and poor people globally. This provision does nothing to protect the poor and needy. At best, it is morally imbalanced.
Here is a compilation of a few other recently-published articles on the harmful provision (H.R. 4005), and how it could affect our ability to help hungry people in need:
"US food aid U-turn could put 2m people in jeopardy, warn experts." May 2, 2014, by Carey L. Biron for Inter Press Service, The Guardian. "We're always talking about the budget crisis and using our money more wisely, but here's a provision that would specifically raise the cost of food aid by $75m [£44m] annually. That money would be taken directly out of U.S. food-aid programmes – and millions of vulnerable people would be forced to pay the bill."
"Provision Could Limit U.S. Food Aid." April 24, 2014, by Ron Nixon, New York Times. "An obscure provision tucked inside a Coast Guard spending bill could prevent millions of people in troubled countries around the world from receiving American food aid and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in shipping costs."
"White House Warns Bill Would Crimp Foreign Food Aid." April 24, 2014, by Kristina Peterson, Wall Street Journal. "'As we work swiftly to reach hungry people and save lives, this bill would only increase the cost of shipping emergency food aid, potentially denying relief to more than 2 million persons in need annually,' said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development."
Call (800-326-4941) or email your senators today! Urge them to reject any actions that would increase transportation costs for food aid and prevent hungry people around the world from receiving U.S. food assistance.
Photo: The U.S. has long been a global leader in responding to humanitarian emergencies and is the largest provider of lifesaving food aid. Since Food for Peace—the largest food aid program–began in the 1950s, approximately 3 billion people in 150 countries have benefitted from American generosity and compassion. A Haitian woman and her daughter carry their humanitarian aid rations after receiving them at a food distribution center in Congrave after the 2010 earthquake. (U.S. Navy)
Lutheran Development Service distributes cooking oil to people affected by a 2004 drought in Swaziland. Many U.S. food-aid items are distributed by private relief and development organizations supported by U.S. churches. (Stephen Padre)
Local newspapers can be a powerful and public way to message your members of Congress as well as bring attention to hunger issues.
Faith leaders in Missouri published an op-ed last week in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opposing a harmful change to U.S. food aid. In the editorial, titled "A provision in Congress that hurts taxpayers and the hungry," Rev. Roger R. Gustafson, Dr. Jim Hill, and Meg Olson call on Missouri senators to reject a provision slipped in to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 that would increase cargo preference.
The bill, which recently passed the House, increases the percentage of U.S. food aid required to be shipped on private U.S. shipping vessels. In effect, this takes away an additional $75 million per year from much-needed U.S. international food-aid programs. Both senators for Missouri, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), sit on the commerce committee, which will soon consider this issue.
"As we read in the Book of Proverbs, 'A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but an accurate weight is his delight.' A present-day “false balance” that harms taxpayers and hungry people was tucked into a bill heading to the U.S. Senate, and it must be removed," the faith leaders wrote in the op-ed.
"The false balance in question is an obscure, one-sentence provision in an otherwise unrelated bill passed recently by the U.S. House of Representatives. This provision would tilt the balance in the wrong direction — against fiscal responsibility and against millions of hungry people around the world. As faith leaders called to be stewards of our resources and to serve our neighbors both here and around the world — and especially 'the least of these' — we find this unacceptable, and we call on our U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to correct the balance and remove this unjust provision."
If your member of Congress also sits on the commerce committee, now is the time to speak up. The committee will soon begin drafting their own version of the bill and without an outcry from faithful advocates, the cargo-preference stipulation could take food from nearly 2 million hungry people. This provision, as the authors write, is an unjust balance. Both taxpayers and the hungry deserve better.
Every member of Congress relies on local media to gauge public opinion on legislation and determine their constituents' priorities. Learn more about how to influence the media on Bread's website and call your regional organizer if you would like to help organize an editorial in your own state.
Get updates on issues and actions to take on behalf of hungry people.