Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

18 posts categorized "International Food Aid"

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

USAID Phillipines
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food aid program, billions of lives have been saved, but policies that dictate how aid is delivered are inefficient and outdated.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.

Who’s Working on the Farm Bill?

Barbie Screen Shot
Nearly 16 million children lived in food=insecure households in 2012.  SNAP (formerly food stamps) helps keep hunger at bay and is the nation's number-one defense against hunger (Movie still from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media).

The farm bill process is starting to move again. Now that both chambers have passed their versions, the conference process – by which the House and Senate try to reconcile the bills into a single piece of legislation – is expected to begin with opening statements on Oct. 30.

As part of the 2013 Offering of Letters, Bread members have been advocating for protection of SNAP funding and asking for common-sense reforms to food aid. There is a vast difference between the Senate and the House bills, so negotiations will be difficult.  As a reminder, the Senate passed a bill with a $4.1 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years, but did include needed improvements to food aid. The House bill, on the other hand, included a nearly $40 billion cut to SNAP over 10 years and a $2.5 billion cut to international food aid.

Nearly 49 million American families live in food-insecure households. In just nine days, participants in the SNAP program, which helps provide food to those struggling families, will begin to see a reduction in their benefits.  Making additional cuts to SNAP  as we continue to rebound from tough economic times would be disastrous. Churches and charities cannot replace such a reduction in the safety net. 

The World Food Program reports that poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five — 3.1 million children each year. Common-sense reforms to food aid as part of the Senate version of the farm bill will help programs target nutrition to vulnerable populations with greater efficiency.  More than 50 bipartisan members of the House have urged support of the reforms.

Now is the time for faithful advocates to again add their voice.  If one of the conferees listed below is your Senator or Representative, call or email them, write letters to the editor and use social media to make your message public.  Contact your regional organizer for more ways you can impact the final bill.

Sample tweet: Senator @StabenowPress, I ask you to pass a #farmbill with #NoSNAPcuts and #fixfoodaid

Sample Facebook status update:  A farm bill must not increase hunger. I’m urging my Senator @Debbie Stabenow to protect SNAP in the farm bill and include common-sense reforms to food aid.

Senate Farm Bill Conferees

State

Senator

Twitter

Phone

Michigan

Debbie Stabenow

@StabenowPress

(202) 224-4822

Vermont

Patrick Leahy

@SenatorLeahy

(202) 224-4242

Iowa

Tom Harkin

@SenatorHarkin

(202) 224-3254

Montana

Max Baucus

@MaxBaucus

(202) 224-2651

Ohio

Sherrod Brown

@SenSherrodBrown

(202) 224-2315

Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar

@amyklobuchar

(202) 224-3244

Colorado

Michael Bennet

@SenBennetCO

(202) 224-5852

Mississippi

Thad Chochran

@SenThadCochran

(202) 224-5054

Kansas

Pat Roberts

@SenPatRoberts

(202) 224-4774

Georgia

Saxby Chambliss

@SaxbyChambliss

(202) 224-3521

Arkansas

John Boozman

@JohnBoozman

(202) 224-4843

North Dakota

John Hoeven

@SenJohnHoeven

(202) 224-2551

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page. To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

House Farm Bill Conferees

State/District

Representative

Twitter

Phone

Oklahoma -03

Frank Lucas

@RepFrankLucas

(202) 225-5565

Iowa - 04

Steve King

@SteveKingIA

(202) 225-4426

Texas -19

Randy Neugebauer

@RandyNeugebauer

(202) 225-4005

Alabama - 03

Mike Rogers

@RepMikeRogersAL

(202) 225-3261

Texas -11

K. Michael Conaway

@ConawayTX11

(202) 225-3605

Pennsylvania- 05

Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson

@CongressmanGT

(202) 225-5121

Georgia - 08

Austin Scott

@AustinScottGA08

(202) 225-6531

Arkansas - 01

Rick Crawford

@RepRickCrawford

(202) 225-4076

Alabama – 02

Martha Roby

@RepMarthaRoby

(202) 225-2901

South Dakota - AL

Kristi Noem

@RepKristiNoem

(202) 225-2801

California - 10

Jeff Denham

@RepJeffDenham

(202) 225-4540

Illinois - 13

Rodney Davis

@RodneyDavis

(202) 225.2371

Florida - 02

Steve Southerland

@Rep_Southerland

(202) 225-5235

California - 39

Ed Royce

@RepEdRoyce

(202) 225-4111

Pennsylvania - 10

Tom Marino

@RepTomMarino

(202) 225-3731

Michigan - 04

Dave Camp

@RepDaveCamp

(202) 225-3561

Texas - 03

Sam Johnson

@SamsPressShop

(202) 225-3561

Minnesota - 07

Collin Peterson

No account

(202) 225-2165

North Carolina -07

Mike McIntyre

@RepMikeMcIntyre

(202) 225-2731

California - 16

Jim Costa

@RepJimCosta

(202) 225-3341

Minnesota - 01

Tim Walz

@RepTimWalz

(202) 225-2472

Oregon – 05

Kurt Schrader

@RepSchrader

(202) 225-5711

Massachusetts - 02

Jim McGovern

@RepMcGovern

(202) 225-6101

Washington - 01

Suzan DelBene

@RepDelBene

(202) 225-6311

California – 35

Gloria Negrete

@RepMcLeod

(202) 225-6161

Texas - 34

Filemon Vela

@RepFilemonVela

(202) 225-9901

Ohio - 11

Marcia Fudge

@RepMarciaFudge

(202) 225-7032

New York - 16

Eliot Engel

@RepEliotEngel

(202) 225-2464

Michigan - 09

Sandy Levin

@repsandylevin

(202) 225-4961

*To tag your member of Congress on Facebook, you must first like their page. To find their page, click on the hyperlink in their name.

A Window of Opportunity

The Power of 1,000 Days

As Congress uses a vote on a continuing resolution as a political football and a possible government shutdown looms, there are important anti-hunger issues at stake. This video, “The Power of a 1,000 Days,” is a reminder of the potential children hold for the future when they are given the opportunity to thrive. We could lose ground on the strides that have been made toward ending global malnutrition if the sequester is not replaced. The partisan conversation will likely continue as Congress debates the debt ceiling in mid-October, so every opportunity to remind our legislators that ending hunger must be part of the debate is critical.

If passed, the continuing resolution would keep the government running through mid-December, but the automatic across-the-board cuts of sequestration would not be replaced. In the next year, sequestration will mean:

  • More than 570,000 children in developing countries will be denied nutritional interventions during their first 1,000 days of development. These interventions save lives and help prevent the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.
  • Roughly 2 million people around the world will experience reduced or denied access to lifesaving food aid.

The 1,000 days from the start of a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday offer a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures. Similarly, we have a window of opportunity that we can use to tell Congress funding food aid must be a priority.

As the video states, “malnutrition robs children of the ability to grow, learn, and thrive.”  Will our members of Congress forget the children in the din of political rhetoric this week? Or will the 870 million malnourished children worldwide who can be helped by simple and small investments in targeted nutrition be remembered?  It’s up to us to remind them.

Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard, or send an email.

In June, with Concern Worldwide, The Bread for the World Institute co-hosted the event Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition. A report of the summary and highlights in now available online.

A Radical Commitment to End Hunger Takes Faith

Amelia and Gary to White House
Bread for the World policy analyst Amelia Kegan and director of church relations Gary Cook travel to the White House in August to deliver the first set of signatures from Bread for the World members asking the president to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. (Joseph Mollieri/Bread for the World)

By Amelia Kegan

You may be overwhelmed by the number of times we have asked you to call your members of Congress lately. You may be so angry at the partisan brinkmanship that you want to ignore the news. I know because sometimes I feel it, too. But I’m not giving up and we won’t stop asking you to speak up. Your voice makes a difference; there is too much at stake to lose faith now.

Soon Congress must pass a responsible budget and the path there will include more partisan fights over a continuing resolution, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. The fate of SNAP in the farm bill is still uncertain as the House and Senate move toward a reconciliation process. At each juncture we must be vigilant and vocal or risk an increase in hunger both at home and abroad.

Bread for the World knows ending hunger requires a long-term vision. We envision transitioning from a political climate of defensive protection to a bold offensive against hunger, transforming the rhetoric of scarcity into one of hope and abundance. We will pull out by the roots this political culture that blames the poor and demonizes those on SNAP. We will replant a new seed of radical commitment to ending hunger within Congress and the White House—a seed that will eventually yield economic security for all and a real opportunity to attain the American Dream. We will grow this transformation with the soil of on-the-ground, person-to-person grassroots organizing, the waters of political accountability, and by radiating the fierce unconditional love of Jesus Christ. 

But staring only at that grand vision of ending hunger in our time without attending to the immediate fights in front of us is like driving with our sights on the horizon while ignoring that sharp and dangerous curve in the road right just up ahead. How will we end hunger in this generation if 2014 begins with 4 million Americans kicked off of SNAP and 2 million more people around the world denied lifesaving food aid because of the sequester?

The budget battles we are fighting today are becoming part of the political narrative defining this era. There is no doubt in my mind that if we keep at it we will emerge victorious because we're in the right on this. When those suffering from hunger are able to fill their dinner tables with more than just anxious conversation, we all benefit. History, economics, and scripture have taught us that we are all in this together.

While each new budget fight might bring a level of increased exhaustion, frustration, and irritation, we cannot be discouraged. We must continue the relentless struggle over these fiscal fights. And while some may question the sustainability of our seemingly small efforts, we know the parable of the mustard seed and that with faith, we move mountains. 

As we face the next several months, prepare yourself for the trial ahead by taking comfort in the  certainty that you are not alone in God’s kingdom and everyone deserves a place at the table

Amelia Kegan is a senior policy analyst for Bread for the World.

Sequestration Threatens Lifesaving Food Aid

Bangladesh
Tohomina Akter attempts to feed her daughter Adia, 17 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Tohomina finished 7th grade and hopes she can help educate her daughter to be a doctor. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

“The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:15).

Famine is difficult for Americans to truly understand. Although poverty rates in the United States have surged with the Great Recession, programs like SNAP have helped put food on the table for those who have been hit the hardest. But famine — a perversion of God’s vision for humanity in the midst of global abundance – slowly and painfully withers life in the wake of human and natural disasters. For people who live in the world's poorest countries, the safety net is often weak or nonexistent.

Both the Old and New Testaments show a special concern for the poor; God’s people are called to change the systems that create poverty. Amos 5 tells us that we also are called to respond immediately to the groaning at the gates—an outcry exemplified by hunger. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul understood that the Christian call included responding to the need in Macedonia with a generosity that crossed borders (2 Corinthians 8-9).

Today, that humanitarian assistance often comes in the form of U.S. food aid and programs administered by USDA and USAID. For more than 50 years, U.S. generosity has saved lives. In fiscal year 2010, the United States spent about $1.5 billion on emergency food aid that benefitted about 46.5 million people in poor countries.

In 2011, famine in Somalia led to the death of more than 250,000 people in Southern Somalia, but many survived because of food aid and global generosity. Although rains and lowered food prices have helped, security issues still plague the region and continued vigilance on the part of the international community is vital.  IRIN reports that an estimated 870,000 will need food assistance by December of this year. 

As we have previously reported, the crisis is regional and the Horn of Africa has the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. Programs targeting the nutritional needs of nursing mothers and infants are working. Last week, the UN reported that Ethiopia has reduced by two-thirds its child mortality rate, which is the rate of infants and children who die before age 5. 

The less than 1 percent of our budget that is invested in poverty-focused development assistance is saving lives and helping us answer our faithful call to love our neighbors, regardless of borders. The investments, however, are being diminished by sequestration, the automatic and indiscriminate budget cuts currently in place. If these cuts aren't replaced by a balanced approach, sequestration will deny nutritional interventions to 57,000 children and deny or reduce food aid to 2 million people. Congress must take action.

Congress is facing some big choices this week—lives are at stake.  Ask your senators and representative to pass a responsible budget that provides robust funding for international poverty-focused development assistance programs and puts an end to sequestration. Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard, or send an email.

Reaching Mountaintops: 2013 Offering of Letters

Jeanette
Jeanette Salguero is co-pastor at the Lamb's Church in New York City. Photographed on Sunday, October 28, 2102.
(Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

Bread for the World researches the root causes that drive hunger and poverty. Whether improving nutrition for mothers and children as part of the 1,000 Days movement, which falls under the umbrella of international food aid and development, or improving nutrition for mothers and their children domestically through the WIC program, we advocate for policies that support long-term solutions to hunger.  

This year, as part of the Offering of Letters, faithful advocates are writing to their members of Congress asking that these vital programs be protected. Cuts to food aid will deter progress made combatting malnutrition and hunger globally, and there is potential to improve the program through common-sense reforms. Sequestration, unless replaced with a balanced approach, will make it impossible next year to reach all of the mothers and children needing nutrition assistance through the WIC program.

In a year filled with harmful proposals in Congress to anti-hunger programs, Bread members have been busy—and you have our gratitude for all your work.  SNAP is under unprecedented attack, faithful immigration reform could bring millions who are hungry out of the shadows if enacted, and decisions around the budget and taxes can affect our mission to end hunger for years to come. Some of the decisions will be made in the next few months and we continue to ask for your prayers, your vigilance, and your voice.

In this year's Offering of Letters video, Pastor Jeannette Salguero beautifully articulated the work we do as an advocacy organization grounded in faith: 

"Being a Christian to me is advocating—is reaching out, extending the hand. If someone is being thrown from a mountain, the church is very good at asking if they can help you—can I heal your wounds. However, the church also needs to ask who was launching them from the mountaintop." 

There is still time to conduct an Offering of Letters through your church or even with a small group—your voices matter. Learn more about how your voice can reach mountaintops with this year's Offering of Letters and watch the full video below.

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