Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

23 posts categorized "International Food Aid"

Food Aid and Feed the Future: 2 programs, 1 mission

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An African woman farmer. Sarah Rawson/World Food Program USA.

By Alyssa Casey

Bread for the World is excited to see two different international food-security issues being acted upon in Congress - Feed the Future and food-aid reform! The issues are currently in two separate pieces of legislation, but there has been some discussion in Congress about combining them into a broader food security bill.

It is common for people - even members of Congress - to confuse the two issues. As they both move forward, we at Bread want to clarify the differences between these two vital but distinct pillars of food security.

Food Aid
Food-aid programs provide immediate assistance, usually in the form of actual food, but occasionally as cash or vouchers to purchase food. Aid is mostly provided in response to emergencies that immediately disrupt a country’s food supply, such as the recent earthquakes in Nepal and the prolonged crises in Syria and South Sudan.

The largest U.S. food-aid program, Food for Peace, originated in the 1950s following the aftermath of World War II. While largely successful, certain restrictions have remained virtually unchanged since that time. This includes the fact that nearly all food must be bought in the United States and transported mostly (at least 50 percent) on U.S.-flagged ships. With small changes and increased flexibility, this program can feed more people at no extra cost to U.S. taxpayers.

The Food for Peace Reform Act reforms the Food for Peace program by increasing flexibility and avoiding inefficiencies. Allowing more money to be spent purchasing local food is on average 30 percent cheaper and reaches people in need up to two months faster.

Feed the Future
Feed the Future is a much newer initiative, started in 2009 in response to the devastation caused by the spike in global food prices in 2007 and 2008. It assists countries in strengthening their agriculture sector in order to increase farm yields and develop better opportunities for trade and economic growth. Feed the Future integrates many aspects of food security into a smart, inclusive approach.

The program places significant focus on empowering women farmers to improve food security, since the majority of women in developing countries are smallholder farmers. It also integrates nutrition into agriculture so they are not just growing more food, but growing more nutritious food; and implements climate-sensitive agriculture so they are preserving fields and natural resources for future generations.

Feed the Future is currently dependent on the goodwill of Congress for yearly appropriations. The initiative could end in 2016 if it is not made into permanent law. The Global Food Security Act would authorize Feed the Future into legislation, allowing the program to continue beyond the Obama administration.

Why Do We Need Both?
Food aid targets today’s hunger – the immediate needs. Meanwhile, Feed the Future targets tomorrow’s hunger by investing in long-term agricultural solutions so communities are better prepared to deal with persistent hunger. When long-term development gives communities resilience – enables them to bounce back faster, they can rely less on emergency food aid and instead feed themselves. We need both programs to address the hunger of today and tomorrow.

Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day is June 9. Join us to make some real changes in Washington, D.C., when it comes to feeding our children. You don’t need to be a policy expert to participate. You just need to care. 

Registration is free but space is limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

Alyssa Casey is government relations coordinator at Bread for the World.

Improving Nutrition is Essential to Ending Global Hunger

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A Ugandan family shares a meal together. Kendra Rinas for Bread for the World.

Editor's note: This article first appeared on the World Food Program USA website. It was co-written by staff members from Bread for the World Institute and World Food Program USA.

By Scott Bleggi and Allan Jury

“Good nutrition is the bedrock of human well-being.” This compelling truth opens the 2014 Global Nutrition Report.

For young children, good nutrition enables the body to grow and develop to its full potential. Studies show that well-nourished children are more likely to succeed in the classroom and earn higher wages as adults than their malnourished peers.  

This is why the Roadmap to End Global Hunger’s 2015 Policy Brief identifies nutrition as one the four main pillars of an effective U.S. strategy to build global food security. 

It is particularly important to focus on good nutrition during the first 1,000 days, a window of opportunity between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. The negative effects of poor nutrition during the 1,000 days are irreversible, while getting the right nutrients at this time produces lasting benefits in both mental and physical development. 

Spending on nutrition support for mothers and young children is a proven investment. In fact, recent analysis shows that for every $1 invested in improving nutrition, $16 is returned to the economy through improved worker productivity and lower health care costs. 

U.S. leadership is essential for maintaining international political will and adequate funding to reduce global malnutrition. Malnutrition has many causes and effective nutrition programming is needed to address each of these causes:

  • We need better nutrition education for expectant and new mothers, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to age six months. 
  • We need to support programs that increase the availability of nutritious foods, especially fortified foods and nutrition supplements for pregnant women and children 6-24 months. 
  • We need to help communities gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation to reduce the risk of diseases that rob the body of its ability to absorb vital nutrients.

When the world acts to address malnutrition, the results are more than just impressive economic statistics. With WFP’s help, millions of mothers worldwide are witnessing their children grow and prosper.  

Take Khourn Kom, a young mother who lives with her family in a two-room house in rural Cambodia. Throughout her pregnancy and her baby’s first six months, Kom received monthly distributions of Super Cereal from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). When her child turned seven months old, WFP began providing a different product Super Cereal Plus, which responds to the unique nutritional needs of children 6-23 months.

"This food is good for my son,” Kom told WFP staffers in the field, adding that she now feels confident her son will grow into a strong, healthy boy.

As the 2014 Global Nutrition report points out, the well-being of all people begins with good nutrition: “Without good nutrition, people’s lives and livelihoods are built on quicksand.”  

Let’s advocate together for a smarter approach to global nutrition, along with robust levels of funding that can turn quicksand into a rock-solid foundation for the future health and success of malnourished children everywhere.

The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567) was recently reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This smart approach recognizes that, in order to end hunger, we don't just need to grow more food through building strong agriculture systems. We need quality, nutritious food as well.

Call or email your U.S. representative today. Urge your U.S. representative to co-sponsor The Global Food Security Act.

Scott Bleggi is senior international policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, where he supports the organization's larger advocacy efforts to end hunger and poverty, with a focus on maternal and child nutrition policies and programs in U.S. government developmental assistance.

Allan Jury is senior advisor at World Food Program USA, where he works with lawmakers and advocates to shape U.S. food and agriculture policies. Before joining WFP USA in 2013, he worked as the director of the U.S. relations office for the United Nations World Food Program after spending 25 years abroad working for the U.S. Department of State.

The Blessing of a Grocery Store

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Ashoka Jegroo/Wikimedia Commons.

By Fito Moreno

As snow covered Washington, D.C., yesterday, I sighed. I should have done my grocery shopping on Saturday and not indulged in Netflix. After work, I had to traverse a city that falls apart after only 2 inches of snow to grab milk, bread, and cereal, and walk on poorly shoveled sidewalks to get home.

Yet the mere fact that I live in a city where I can walk to the store to get groceries would be a blessing to millions living in conflict areas such as eastern Ukraine.   

Food reserves in that part of the country are fully depleted, and infrastructure is partly destroyed, including transportation routes and city markets, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The simple task of buying a loaf of bread has become almost impossible in some areas due to the damage done by the conflict.

It is estimated that 5.2 million people are currently living in the conflict-affected area and a little over 1 million having been displaced.

The World Food Program is one of the major aid groups providing assistance to the region. It depends primarily on voluntary donations from national governments. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) gave $3 million directly to the WFP in November to assist 120,000 Ukrainians affected by conflict.

Last year, Bread advocated to ensure that food aid was more flexible. With help from our members, we halted passage of a provision in a Coast Guard Reauthorization bill that would have increased the percentage of food aid required to be shipped on U.S. vessels from 50 to 75 percent. If it had passed, it would have reduced the reach of food aid programs by 2 million people annually.

Our advocacy also helped increase funding for poverty-focused development from $24 billion to $27 billion, which specifically goes toward international disaster assistance, global health, and USAID.  

Making legislative changes on government policies might not be the sexy side of politics that trends on Twitter, but it allows us to respond efficiently to our brothers and sisters around the world when they need us most.

As I unpacked my eco-friendly grocery bag last night, I was thankful that I live in a conflict-free zone. I will continue to talk with my members of Congress to ensure families don’t go hungry because of conflict.

As the 114th Congress begins its work, we’ll need your help to ensure that food-aid reform is a priority. Bread will continue to work on this issue and urge Congress to pass legislation that helps those who need food the most to get it. Learn more: U.S. Food-Aid Reform.

Fito Moreno is acting manager of media relations and a media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

 

Eleven Days and Three Big Issues: Will Congress Act?

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(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.

Building Bipartisan Momentum for Food Aid

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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.”

Food Aid and Haiyan: Offering Emergency and Long-Term Help

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USAID photo of beneficiaries of U.S. food aid in Tacloban City in the Philippines (photo courtesy of USAID: IOM/J. Lowry).

It took only a moment for Typhoon Haiyan to destroy any semblance of normal life when it pummeled the Philippines on Nov. 8, leaving hunger and loss in its wake. Those who survived the storm now face an uncertain future.

American generosity and compassion shine in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters, but what happens when the cameras are aimed elsewhere? What happens when the global shock wears off, but hunger remains? Do U.S. food aid policies address long-term solutions to rebuild lives and address hunger? Passing needed reforms in the farm bill would allow U.S. food aid to better assist those in need for extended periods of time.

Being yesterday's news is something displaced Filipino families worry about. "What will happen to us when this kindness ends?" Maribel Villajos, a woman who fled a ravaged Tacloban City in the wake of the typhoon, asked one reporter. Villajos, a mother of three, made her way to Manila, and found temporary shelter and food aid there, but she worries about the future.

As infrastructure in the Philippines is rebuilt, the Villajos family, and other survivors of Haiyan, will need continued assistance.

Since the 1950s, when the United States began the international food aid program, billions of lives have been saved, but policies that dictate how aid is delivered are inefficient and outdated. Using aid dollars to buy food locally is one way to rebuild economies and help farmers rebound by marketing their produce. But since the U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID) has exhausted the bulk of its allotment for such local and regional purchase (LRP), most additional food sent to the Philippines will be shipped from the United States.

Increasing the option to buy food locally, and address both hunger and nutrition, could be an important part of the post-disaster reconstruction in the Philippines—especially with 1.5 million children at risk of acute malnutrition. In a New York Times report, Eric Munoz, a policy analyst with Oxfam International, cautions that without reforms, food aid can destabilize local economies, undercut farmers, and make recovery that much more difficult. Common sense fixes would give USAID experts the flexibility to match resources to the best local solutions.

And while the United States acts quickly to respond to natural and humanitarian disasters in the world, reforms could make our government's response time even faster, and decrease the cost of emergency food aid.

Some U.S.-donated rice has already reached the Philippines, because of prepositioned emergency aid, which was put in place in Sri Lanka before the disaster. Additionally, an LRP pilot program (included in the 2008 farm bill) that has allowed for a small amount of food aid to be purchased locally has been essential in helping hungry survivors. But, by law, most U.S. food aid consists of commoditized crops that are shipped from this country on U.S.-owned vessels. A “rush” shipment of rice to the Philippines from the United States would not arrive until late January or early February. In the face of debilitating hunger, that is too long to wait.

The profound loss in the wake of a disaster like Haiyan is heartbreaking, but our collective willingness to help in the face of tragedy speaks volumes about human compassion. Asking our senators and representatives to ensure that U.S. food aid is used as effectively as possible must be  part of our compassionate response. As Congress negotiates a new farm bill, they need to hear from you that food aid must be reformed.

Hunger won’t wait, and neither should help.

Protecting Foreign Assistance

During the upheavals over the budget in recent years, Bread for the World and our partners have been successful in maintaining funding for U.S. programs that help hungry and poor people around the world. We have driven a major U.S. initiative focused specifically on hunger, and we have helped to improve the quality of U.S. foreign assistance. Bread will continue to advocate for the protection of programs that provide lifesaving food aid, help thousands of farmers learn increase their yields and incomes, and educate children.

Aid Remains Strong in Tough Budget Climate

During the George W. Bush and early Obama years, U.S. funding for programs that help reduce poverty around the world tripled to $22 billion annually, in part because of the persistent advocacy of Bread for the World members.

This poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA), which accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget, along with increased aid from industrialized nations, has supported rapid economic progress in poor countries.

Despite huge budget pressures, we have managed to protect foreign assistance programs that help poor people.

There was a tragic surge in hunger in 2008, driven by the global financial crisis and soaring prices for rice, wheat, and corn. The incoming Obama administration responded, leading the world in increasing investment in agriculture and nutrition in the most-affected countries. Bread for the World and our members rallied around this initiative, called Feed the Future.

In 2011, more than 4.3 million farmers around the world benefitted from U.S. agricultural development assistance through projects like Feed the Future.

In 2008, major research findings gave the world new knowledge about how to tackle the scourge of child malnutrition. One conclusion was that nutrition assistance should target the 1,000 days from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday. Bread for the World Institute played a leadership role in urging U.S. and international officials to incorporate this new knowledge into the global food security program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the 1,000 Days initiative, and Bread for the World organized a network of U.S. women across Christian denominations — Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement — to support this effort.

Bread for the World Institute convened international meetings on nutrition during Bread’s 2011 and 2013 National Gatherings. At this year's meeting, Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), told Bread advocates, "You form one of the greatest movements alive today—the fight to make hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty permanently a thing of the past."

This year, world leaders committed $4.15 billion over three years to scale up direct nutrition interventions and an additional $19 billion for nutrition-sensitive programs in agriculture and other sectors. Shah is leading a review of nutrition-related programs in the U.S. government in order to use available dollars most effectively.

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped below the pre-2008 level and is continuing to decline—partly because of U.S. leadership in promoting agriculture and nutrition among the poorest countries of the world.

When President Bush decided to increase assistance to poor countries, he set up new institutions within the U.S. governmen t— the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Bread for the World helped secure congressional support, and both of these institutions have been effective.

Still, the entire U.S. foreign assistance system was badly in need of reform. In response to this, Bread helped set up the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a foreign assistance reform coalition that has been supported by both the Hewlett and Gates foundations.

In 2009, Bread for the World's Offering of Letters campaign was a push for foreign assistance reform. When the legislation Bread supported passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Obama administration announced it would work on the issue.

The administration has since improved coordination among the government agencies that work in developing countries, and President Obama issued a directive that established international development policies and priorities for the entire government.

USAID has set up an excellent system of evaluation, and information on the aid projects of U.S. agencies is now available to the public at www.foreignassistance.gov.

"Those of us who push for more dollars for programs of assistance need to work just as hard to make sure those dollars are used well," says Bread for the World President David Beckmann. "Bread for the World's members have been willing to study up on these issues and push for both funding and effectiveness."

Negotiations in Congress Will Have Long-Term Effects

Capitol_bldg_flickr_usr_smaedliAs we move toward the end of the year, members of Congress have many important decisions before them. Legislators will be dealing with the farm bill, immigration reform, sequestration and ongoing gridlock over the budget. The choices our legislators make now will affect people struggling with hunger for years to come.

Budget and Sequestration

On Oct. 16,Congress passed a bill that ended a 16-day government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. default. The deal funds the government at current levels through Jan. 15, 2014, and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014. The deal also created a conference committee to negotiate a budget for the remainder of the 2014 fiscal year and address the automatic cuts of sequestration. The committee, which holds its next hearings on Nov. 13, has until Dec. 13 to emerge with a deal.  

These budget talks could play out in a couple of ways. The committee could emerge with a big, multi-trillion dollar, decade-long budget deal and succeed where all previous attempts have failed. However, members of Congress have said they don’t expect a big deal to emerge.

Alternatively, the committee could come up with a smaller deal that resolves the overall funding level for FY 2014 and replaces some or all of the sequester for one, or even two, years. If this happens, there are two issues to watch: the overall funding level and the makeup of any package that replaces sequestration. The size of the budget they agree on will determine the amount of funding available for all anti-hunger discretionary programs. If the committee agrees on a plan to replace sequestration, we will be focused on whether it includes revenues and protects important anti-poverty programs.

Finally, the committee could emerge with no deal. At that point, Congress will have until Jan. 15 to prevent another shutdown and potentially address sequestration.

We must continue to urge members of Congress to pass a moral budget that adequately funds programs that combat hunger and poverty, and replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and smart spending cuts that won’t increase poverty.

Farm Bill and Food Aid

Members of the House and Senate have begun negotiating a farm bill to renew our nation’s agriculture and nutrition policies.

Last month, the congressional conference committee on the farm bill met for the first time to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate version cuts $4 billion from SNAP over 10 years, while the House’s nutrition-only version cuts $39 billion. Any cuts to SNAP would make it more difficult for struggling families to put food on the table. Still, SNAP isn’t the only point of contention.

The farm bill conferees will also negotiate agricultural provisions, including food aid reform. The Senate passed provisions in its farm bill for more effective and efficient food aid policy that would allow U.S. food aid to reach more hungry people with better, more nutritious food. While an amendment to include similar provisions in the House version failed to pass, a bipartisan letter signed by 53 members of the House was recently sent to farm bill conferees supporting Senate-passed provisions in the bill.

In the coming months, we will ask our members with senators and representatives who sit on the conference committee to ask them to ensure that hungry people aren’t harmed in any final farm bill.

Immigration Reform

Bread for the World and its partners are working to ensure that House leadership puts a vote on immigration reform on the 2013 calendar. The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which Bread is a member, recently released a letter urging the House to continue working on immigration and take up reform that includes a pathway to legalization or citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

 Bread for the World will continue to ask members of Congress to come to agreement on these issues while also protecting programs that help people suffering from hunger.

Typhoon Haiyan: How to Help


Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines, was one of the area most ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. (Caritas/ CAFOD)

Rev. Edwin Amor is pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Tacloban City on Leyte Island in the Philippines — a city that news reports are calling the center of the disaster zone created by Typhoon Haiyan. His house was badly damaged, and there's no water, no power, no food, and no milk for his grandchild. Still, Amor, who is the local director of the Adventist Relief and Development Association, has opted to stay in Tacloban to help in the relief and recovery efforts.

He is helping coordinate the work of medical teams and performing other vital tasks in the aftermath of a storm that has left thousands dead, and hundreds of thousands without food, clean water, or shelter.

Many of Bread for the World's partners, including denominational disaster programs and faith-based relief agencies, are involved in emergency response. We encourage you to give to your denomination's relief and development agency, or support the efforts of organizations such as World Vision and Church World Service, both of which have mounted disaster-response campaigns.

Interaction, an alliance of more than 180 nongovernmental organizations around the world, including Bread for the World, has compiled a list of its member organizations that are responding to the crisis.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it is sending emergency shipments of food to hard-hit areas of the Philippines, providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance in the wake of this tragedy. We ask that, in addition to making generous donations to service organizations, you continue your work to support U.S. food aid programs, which allow the U.S. government to respond quickly and effectively to such disasters, and help our brothers and sisters around the world in times of great need.

Your concern, your generosity, your advocacy, and your prayers are greatly appreciated.

Lean Just a Little: Food Aid Reform in the Farm Bill

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 1.09.46 PMIn a 2010 interview with PBS, Bread for the World President David Beckmann talked about how small reforms to food aid  can help more hungry people. "If we just lean a little bit," Beckmann said, "we can make it a lot easier for people to escape from poverty and feed their children."

Bread for the World continues to urge Congress to make simple reforms to food aid, and our efforts are apparent in farm bill negotiations. Over the years, U.S. generosity and compassion have saved billions of lives, and right now we have an opportunity to make this valuable assistance even better.

A conference committee began negotiations this week to merge House and Senate versions of the farm bill. The Senate version includes common-sense reforms that include allowing food to be purchased in or near the community in need. Language in the bill also grants more flexibility to purchase food aid products with better nutritional quality, which will help target the most vulnerable populations, such as women and children. Locally purchased food builds economies and helps farmers, which in turn helps stabilize regions and  allows them to build defenses against future emergencies. These reforms function as a hand up, not a hand out, and are an essential part of a long-term solution to ending hunger.

Currently, the majority of food aid products provided by the United States must come from this country and be shipped on U.S. vessels. As Bread for the World notes in a new fact sheet on international food aid reform, this practice can add to program costs and delay arrival of food aid, when compared to local purchases. Another current practice, monetization–purchasing U.S. commodities for resale in local markets to fund development projects–meant 800,000 people could have, but did not, receive aid in 2012.

Two lawmakers in the House are leading the charge to modernize U.S. food aid: Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.-16), and both are on the conference committee. An amendment they authored was narrowly defeated in a House farm bill, but they continue to work toward inclusion of food aid reform in the final bill.

In a statement submitted to the conference committee, Royce encouraged policy change that includes the flexibility to address each unique situation and eliminate monetization. “In fact, “ he wrote, “if we eliminated the requirement to monetize and provided just 20 percent in flexible funding, we could generate over $500 million in efficiency savings, reduce mandatory spending by $50 million, and reach millions more people in need during the life of this bill.”

In a guest contribution to Politico yesterday, Engel pointed out that food aid policies have stagnated since 1954, and must to catch up to modern needs. He saw firsthand the effect our current law has had on Haiti, and his experience supports the need for reform. “I’ve seen how the well-intentioned sale of American rice has driven local rice farmers out of business, making it harder for Haitians to feed themselves," he wrote. 

It’s time for international food aid to respond to the realities of today’s world. Call or email your member of Congress today and tell them to protect hungry people in the farm bill.

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