Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

18 posts categorized "International Food Aid"

Cuts Cost Lives: Nutrition Funding in Danger

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Khato Rana plays with her daughter Rita, 2, at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal. The facility, run by Nepali NGO Rural Women's Development Unity Center (RUWDUC), restores malnourished children back to health (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World).

That four in 10 Nepali children are stunted because of malnutrition is outrageous. We have the knowledge to solve widespread malnutrition — but will we?

The 2013 Offering of Letters video "Malnutrition is Everywhere" shows targeted investments in nutrition work. The short video, shot at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home (NRH) in Dhangadhi, Nepal tells a story of hope. Nutrition interventions result in positive outcomes for mothers and their children in the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2.

“Within a month or so, you can see the change in a child,"said Pinky Singh Rana, board member at the Rural Women’s Development Unity Center. "You can see the positive attitude of the mothers in how seeing a child who had almost died overcoming that. It’s really a such a satisfying feeling for us also.”

The NRH and organizations like it are saving lives and helping children reach their full potential with support from U.S. development assistance. Each year, 3 million children die from causes related to malnutrition and 165 million suffer from its consequences. Food aid, currently in danger of severe cuts, not only mitigates and prevents hunger but also shows that our nation values children all over the world—something Christians strongly believe. 

Food aid does more than just save lives; it's an investment in a stable and peaceful future. In the briefing paper "Sustaining U.S. Leadership and Investments in Scaling Up Maternal and Child Nutrition," senior foreign policy analyst Scott Bleggi writes, “There is solid evidence that demonstrates that improving nutrition – particularly early in life, in the 1,000 days between a women’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday, has a profound impact on a country’s long-term economic development and stability.”

Progress on improving nutrition for vulnerable children like those in Nepal would be undermined if proposals to slash food aid become law. In the House version of the farm bill, food aid would be cut by $2.5 billion dollars. The Senate version would reform the food aid program, making it more flexible and able to reach more vulnerable mothers and infants in the first 1,000 days.

Sequestration is also chipping away at global anti-hunger programs. This year has already seen a $1 billion cut to poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) because of these automatic across-the-board cuts. A recent appropriations bill approved in the House would further slash PFDA by a devastating 26 percent.

Our nation’s leaders have an opportunity to make history with small investments in anti-hunger programs – PFDA comprises less than 1 percent of the federal budget.  Reforms to food aid could save even more lives. But, Congress needs motivation. They need to hear from their constituents that investing in human lives is a priority. During the month of August, reach out to your members of Congress and let them know that cuts can and do cost lives.

Recap: July Grassroots Conference Call and Webinar

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Pastor Charlotte Schmiedeskamp of Thompson Falls, Mont., talks about proposed SNAP cuts and sequestration during a visit with her member of Congress during Bread for the World's June 2013 Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. (Robin Stephenson)

July and August offer plenty of opportunities to talk about hunger and poverty with your members of Congress.  

Yesterday, during Bread for the World’s monthly grassroots conference call and webinar, members of our policy and organizing staff emphasized that it is important to act now. Director of government relations Eric Mitchell encouraged advocates to take advantage of in-district meetings and town halls during the August recess, a time when members of Congress return to their home districts. “This is the time they need to hear from constituents," Mitchell said. "After August, things will move fast.”

Bread staffers reviewed the last six months and also looked ahead to what may transpire between now and the end of the year. The bottom line: your phone calls make a difference and will continue to be needed.

Noting that the media has largely ignored the effects of sequestration on vulnerable people, Bread policy analyst Amelia Kegan said, “We know if it’s not front page news, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening and isn’t important—if Congress doesn’t hear from you, they won’t think it’s a problem.”  Kegan went on to point out that a long-term replacement of the sequester is unlikely at this point, but a short-term fix is still possible this fall, especially as more defense spending cuts take their toll. The question moving forward is how Congress will choose to replace the spending cuts—whether they decide to cut programs like SNAP or taking a balanced approach that includes increased revenues may depend on the pressure that anti-hunger advocates put on their lawmakers.

An examination of recent House farm bill activity showed that two wrongs don’t make a right. The first draft of the bill, which included $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP, failed in a floor vote. The version of the bill that the House passed last week does not include the title that authorizes the SNAP program. SNAP will continue to operate at existing levels under current rules and can still be included in a conference with the Senate farm bill (which cuts the program by $4.1 billion). But, as policy analyst Christine Melendez-Ashley cautioned, the way forward for the nutrition title is not yet clear, and that leaves the SNAP vulnerable to cuts in both the farm bill and the appropriations process

Staff members also provided an update on the latest threats to international food aid, which delivers emergency assistance to hungry people overseas. House proposals in the farm bill and spending bills would slash the program. The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, introduced in the House by a bi-partisan group of representatives, was also discussed.

Mitchell also stressed that Bread members must put pressure on their representatives to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill late last month, but is in unclear how the House will come up with a comprehensive bill or a piecemeal approach to reform. 

The next monthly conference call and webinar will be held on Sept. 17.

Double Your Impact: Protecting Food Aid and WIC

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At Bread for the World, ending malnutrition is an essential part of the work to end hunger at home and abroad.

Globally, an estimated 165 million children under the age of five are stunted. Inadequate nutrition during the 1,000 day-window from a woman's pregnancy through her child’s second birthday impairs development. Research shows that adults who did not receive adequate nutrition as children can lose up to 10 percent of their lifetime earnings. In the United States, child poverty rates are on the rise, yet the WIC program, proven to lower infant mortality rates and improve school performance, is in danger of losing funding because of sequestration. When a nation’s children begin their lives with challenges created by malnutrition and hunger, it becomes more difficult to make good on the promise of a prosperous future.

But faithful advocacy has the power to change the future.

To advance the millennium development goals of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty while also reducing child mortality and malnutrition, food aid with improved nutrition that targets vulnerable mothers and children must be central to development programs—and it must be properly funded. Yet, unless Congress acts to end sequestration it is estimated that more than 571 thousand children could lose food interventions that can prevent the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.

God’s kingdom is without borders; nutrition during the first 1,000 days matters as much if you live in Bangladesh or Baltimore. The WIC program provides nearly 9 million pregnant or nursing mothers and vulnerable children access to adequate nutrition, education, and health care referrals.  As sequestration continues, it will erode the effectiveness of the program.  Congress must replace the automatic cuts with a balanced plan that includes revenues.

Both chambers of Congress are working on spending bills, and the House numbers assume sequestration is here to stay. And unlike the provision in sequestration whereby cuts are split evenly between defense and non-defense programs in the budget, the House proposal moves all cuts to non-defense programs. A unified and faithful chorus of voices must again tell Congress that the federal budget cannot be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable.

Being faithful advocates during one of the most polarized political periods in history, with a constant barrage of proposals to cut programs for poor and hungry, is difficult, but we know that your advocacy on behalf of hungry and poor people works. Even with $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction already enacted, programs that help hungry and poor people have been largely protected. Calls and emails helped stop a recent proposal to cut the SNAP program by $20.5 billion, protecting the program at current levels, for now.

These victories and the challenges ahead in the journey to end hunger are possible because of the engagement and support of Bread for the World members. Please consider joining our summer effort to help hungry people by making a gift to Bread. Because of a few generous donors, between now and July 12 your donation will be doubled!

Important House Farm Bill Amendments to Watch

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Updated, 6:15 a.m., 11:34 a.m., 1:23 p.m. 6/20/13

Debate on the House farm bill began today, with a final vote expected in the next week. The representatives will consider as many as 103 amendments, some of which could increase hunger, and others that would help hungry people. Below is a rundown of some of the key amendments Bread for the World will be closely monitoring. Ultimately, we are pushing for “no” votes on any final legislation that cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) or food aid. Even if you have already done so, please call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.

The SNAP cuts included in the House bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.

Amendments Bread for the World Supports

  • McGovern Amendment (No.1): Restores the $20.5 billion in SNAP cuts included in the House bill by cutting commodity programs and crop insurance payments.  Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 1 to restore SNAP funding failed in a recorded vote of 188 yays and 234 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here
  • Royce-Engel Amendment (No. 15): Includes common-sense reforms providing much needed flexibility in the Food for Peace program. Will help the United States reach an additional 4 million disaster victims through overseas food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars. Bread for the World strongly supports. Amendment No. 15 to reform food aid narrowly failed in a recorded vote of 203 yays and 220 nays. To see how your representative voted, click here.
  • Duckworth Amendment (No. 68): Requires USDA to conduct a study and report back to Congress its findings on the impact of SNAP cuts on demand for charitable food services. Amendment No. 68 adopted in a bloc-voice vote. 

Amendments Bread for the World Opposes

A number of harmful amendments have been submitted that would reduce benefits or make access to the SNAP program more difficult for qualifying participants.

  • Conaway Amendment (No.23): Creates a provision in the SNAP program that would reduce benefits to qualifying participants by 10 percent if Congress fails to pass a farm bill. Amendment No. 23 rejected by voice vote, and withdrawn from recorded vote by Rep. Conaway.
  • Kingston, Westmoreland, Austin, and Scott Amendment (No. 24):  Repeals the SNAP benefit boost enacted in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This benefit boost is set to expire in November.
  • Huelskamp, Goodlatte, Neugebauer, Jordon, DeSantis, Stewart, and Chris Amendment(No. 101): Cuts SNAP funding by $31 billion and also eliminates programs such as SNAP nutrition education and job training, which help participants transition out of poverty. Although the SNAP program has existing work requirements, this amendment imposes additional requirements, making it more difficult for qualifying participants to access the safety-net program when they need it. Amendment 101 adopted in a vote of 175 yays and 250 nays. 
  • Southerland, Westmoreland, Kingston, Bentivolio, and Schweikert Amendment (No. 102):  Creates a state option that allow states to change their SNAP work requirements to match stricter federal welfare work requirements and financially incentivizes states to reduce SNAP caseload by providing states funding based on how much they reduce caseload. Amendment 102 failed in a vote of 227 yays and 198 nays.
  • Reed Amendment (No.103): Ex-offenders who have committed a set of specific violent crimes would be permanently banned from ever receiving SNAP. Amendment No. 103 adopted in a bloc-voice vote.

We will update this blog post as each amendment receives a vote over the next few days.

Recap: June Conference Call and Webinar

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By Robin Stephenson

Each month, Bread for the World’s organizing and government relations departments team up for a grassroots conference call and webinar to make sure our members have the most up-to-date information on polices moving through Congress that affect hungry and poor people. Yesterday, Bread’s director of government relations, Eric Mitchell, began the briefing by stating that there is a lot going on in Washington, D.C., right now—immigration, appropriations, sequestration, and voting the House farm bill, which includes devastating cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid.

In the Senate, members continue to debate immigration reform and are expected to vote before the July 4 break. Hunger and immigration are connected and Bread will continue to monitor progress and take targeted action. 

Both the House and Senate are grappling with appropriation bills, and the size of each pie is currently very different, reported policy analyst Amelia Kegan. The appropriations committees differ on several points, including sequestration, in their calculations, and if there is no agreement by Sept. 30 when the government’s fiscal year ends, the vast distance between drafts will likely result in a continuing resolution. Sequestration, which harms both long and short term responses to hunger, could be averted through debt ceiling negotiations, but that depends on voters. Kegan said that during her meetings with congressional offices on the Hill, she is often asked to tell Bread members to speak up by making calls to Congress. “Just because it's not in the news, doesn't mean it doesn't matter,” she said.

But the main issue of the day, on which the current call to action is focused, is the House farm bill which, in its current form, includes $20.5 billion in cuts to SNAP and $2.5 billion in cuts to food aid. As of last night, Mitchell reported that the House Rules Committee had received 225 amendments—including 75 that impact nutrition and two on food aid—some that threaten to increase hunger. We will monitor those amendments and, if they reach the floor, provide updates here on the Bread Blog. Not all of the amendments are harmful, though—Bread for the World is actively asking for support of the McGovern amendment, which would restore SNAP funding. An amendment on food aid by Reps. Royce and Engle would also decrease hunger by increasing the flexibility and efficiency of food aid programs. Ultimately, a final bill that includes any cuts to programs that help hungry and poor people, either at home or abroad, must be met with a resounding “no.” But that will only happen if  you make calls and get your networks to speak up.

Stating the sad reality that has remained true with each cost-cutting proposal since the budget negotiations began, LaVida Davis, Bread's director of organizing, said that “the people that are the most vulnerable get thrown under the bus first, so we have to be vigilant.” The sounds of ringing phones should be echoing throughout the halls of Congress today and continue until a final vote has been taken. Let them know you are listening.

We will continue to follow and report on any new developments around immigration, sequestration, the budget, and the farm bill. The next conference call and webinar will be July 16.  Below is the slide show from last night’s webinar portion.

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

Act Now: House Voting on Cuts to SNAP and Food Aid

 'US Capitol' photo (c) 2007, Navin75 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Update: 6/19/13

We expect two amendments to be considered and voted on today that Bread for the World strongly supports.  Please urge your representative to

1. Vote against any cuts to SNAP and vote for Rep. McGovern’s amendment to restore SNAP funding. The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals.

2. Oppose cuts to food aid and vote for the bipartisan Royce-Engel amendment to make food aid more efficient. The amendment will feed at least 4 million more people at no additional cost to taxpayers by making the food aid system more flexible and efficient.

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By Eric Mitchell

This week, the House of Representatives is considering a farm bill that includes more than $20 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps) and $2.5 billion in cuts to international food aid programs. Numerous harmful amendments submitted to the bill threaten to cut SNAP further or make dangerous changes to the way the program works.

Your representative needs to hear from you today.

The SNAP cuts included in the bill could kick at least 2 million people off of the program, reduce benefits for more than 800,000 families, and leave 210,000 children without free school meals. Cuts to food aid programs could cost lives and hinder the ability of the United States to effectively reach millions of people in need. These cuts must not stand.

Call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against a farm bill that includes cuts to SNAP or international food aid. Tell your representative that you

  1. Oppose any cuts to SNAP and support efforts to restore funding to the program, and
  2. Oppose cuts to food aid and support efforts to make the program more efficient.
The next 48 hours are critical as the House of Representatives moves to vote on the farm bill. Call your representative at 1-800-326-4941 or send an email today.

Thank you for continuing to use your voice to help ensure a place at the table for all God’s people.

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

House Committee on Agriculture Passes Farm Bill with a $21 Billion Cut to SNAP: How the Members Voted

Correction: This post originally reported that Reps. David Scott (D, GA-13) and Filemon Vela (D, TX-34) voted in favor of the FAARM Act of 2013. Both representatives voted against the  legislation.
Yesterday, the House Committee on Agriculture passed a farm bill that includes a $21 billion cut to the SNAP program. The bill, formally known as the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013, passed out of committee by a vote of 36 yeas and 10 nays.

Bread for the World expressed outrage over the severe cuts to anti-hunger programs in a joint statement with Feeding America, United Way, and Catholic Relief Services.

The bill, which now goes to House leadership to be scheduled for a floor vote, would create hardship for families in the Unites States and have deadly consequences for families abroad. If enacted, it would:

  • Remove 2 million SNAP recipients from the program
  • Reduce SNAP benefits (by about $90 each month) for 850,000 households
  • End free school meals for 210,000 children.
  • Cut international food aid by $2.5 billion over 5 years—those cuts would include a 78 percent reduction in funding for improving the nutritional quality of food aid

During a very heated debate on the nutrition portion of the bill—a debate that included comments about churches taking primary responsibility for the care of hungry and poor people—Rep. Jim McGovern introduced an amendment to restore all cuts to the SNAP program. By a roll call vote, the amendment failed 17-27.

Bread for the World will continue to fight these cuts as the bill goes to the floor of the House. Domestic nutrition programs such as SNAP are the first line of defense against hunger and have proven effective in decreasing food insecurity during a weakened economy.

Members of the House Committee on Agriculture who voted to pass a bill with a $21 billion cut to the SNAP program. If your representative is on this list, we encourage you to call your member’s office or tag him or her in a tweet and let them know you are disappointed.

Members of the House Committee on Agriculture who voted to protect the programs for poor and hungry people that provide a place at the table for all. If your representative is on this list, we encourage you to call your member’s office or tag him or her in a tweet and thank them. 

Senate Passes Farm Bill Out of Ag Committee with 15-5 Vote

'US Capitol' photo (c) 2007, Navin75 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013, commonly referred to as the farm bill. The draft of the bill amended by the committee will now be scheduled for a full Senate vote. We thank Bread for the World members who took the time to urge their senators on the agriculture committee to ensure a place at the table for hungry and poor people by opposing cuts to SNAP and international food aid.

The Senate version of the farm bill cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $4.1 billion over five years, which would leave nearly 500,000 households without benefits. (In opening statements, Sens. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Cowan (D-Mass.), Harkin (D-Iowa), and Brown (D-Ohio) spoke favorably of SNAP and nutrition programs).  

Food aid fared better, with a proposed expansion of a program that creates flexibility in purchasing emergency food and includes provisions to improve the quality of food aid, particularly for mothers, children under five, and other target populations. International food aid provisions remain intact moving to floor debate and we will continue to ask senators to support those provisions.

The nutrition portion of the bill, under which SNAP is authorized, saw numerous amendments submitted for consideration, none of which made it through to the final version of the committee’s bill. Below is a summary of the amendments offered or mentioned in committee:

Continue reading "Senate Passes Farm Bill Out of Ag Committee with 15-5 Vote" »

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