Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

500 posts categorized "U.S. Hunger"

'From Kids Whose Stomachs Ache to Parents Whose Hearts Break'

OL2015-Blog

By Bread Staff

Editor’s note: This is a first-person account told to Bread staff members by a Bread colleague about the importance of good nutrition, especially during a child’s early years. Proper nutrition plays a significant, time-sensitive role in a child’s growth and development.

Over 16 million American children or 1 in 5 don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. Hungry children are not a rare exception. They are your neighbors. They are my neighbors.   

But statistics and reasoning are often not enough to convince us to take actions.  Real-life stories bring home the critical importance of good nutrition to a child’s growth and development.

I have one such story.

My younger son’s birth mother wasn’t able to provide him with strong pre-natal nutrition. There was no Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program.  There were not enough nutritious breakfasts and lunches for the first 7 ½ years of his life.  He was robbed of his best potential because he did not receive critical nutrients.  Each day now and for the rest of his life he will pay the price of malnutrition.

Like many children in developed countries who have been malnourished, my son did not “look hungry.”  Only later, would we know the effects of his hunger – his shorter stature but more importantly the gaps in his brain’s development.

Today, at 17, he uses his fingers to count while doing his math homework because he lost out in having the brain development that supports the memorizing and recalling of elementary math facts.  My son is not lazy.  He does apply himself.  My husband and I support his educational efforts with countless hours of at-home tutoring. But, despite spending the equivalent of months trying to learn the multiplication table, he has not been successful because he does not have the capacity to learn them.

As we look to the future, my husband and I are asking, “Will a college degree pay off?  Who will hire him?  How will he be successful in a world that values speed and high productivity?”  We swallow hard and say a prayer, “Guide us Lord.  We don’t know what to do. We need your grace to figure something out.” 

Hunger is not a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats know that hunger hurts -- from kids whose stomachs ache to parents whose hearts break.  But, the biggest hurt is the lifetime price that children who have experienced hunger and malnutrition will pay.

A child whose brain does not develop optimally can’t eat extra food as an adult to make up for this deficit.  In our fix-it society, the effects of poor nutrition cannot be fixed later when the budget deficit is lower, when jobs are more plentiful, or when universal access to food is a reality. We need to make sure now that children have access to nutritious food so that they can be all that God intended for them to be.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

 

 

 

SNAP Safe For Now, But Automatic Cuts Loom in Budget

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The joint budget resolution for the 2016 fiscal year includes deep cuts to anti-hunger programs.  (Screen shot from A Place at the Table, courtesy of Participant Media)

By Robin Stephenson

The House and Senate are close to finalizing a deal for the overall parameters of the 2016 fiscal year budget. The joint budget resolution, with deep cuts to anti-hunger programs, could be ratified by votes in the House and Senate this week.

“It’s a budget that fails to prioritize the most vulnerable, but there is a silver lining:  Thanks to our advocates, the joint resolution does not include reconciliation instructions to the agriculture committees,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World.

In the final compromise, instructions were not included that would have put SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) directly on the chopping block.

“This is good news,” said Kegan. “It postpones our fight to protect SNAP. SNAP is always vulnerable and continues to have a target on its back, but this gives us some breathing room.” On the other hand, reconciliation instructions still leave Medicaid, the earned income tax credit, and the child tax credit potentially at risk.

However, given that 69 percent of the cuts put low-income people at risk, Kegan warns there is still much work to do. “The decisions of what programs get funded and what programs get cut is part of a complex process. There will be a few key opportunities and threats over the next five months in particular,” she said.

A budget resolution sets the top-line numbers for annually appropriated programs – the overall size of the pie that is then sliced up in what is called the appropriation process. Those slices fund individual programs administered through the federal government. Because the budget was balanced by cuts exclusively and not through revenue, the slices are thin. Making matter worse, unless Congress acts, the slices will shrink even more because of a process called sequestration.

Sequestration was offered as a stick during 2011 budget negotiations. In 2011, negotiators were given a choice: They could decide where to enact entitlement cuts and raise revenue or accept additional cuts that shrink the annual appropriations budget. The group of lawmakers, dubbed the Super Committee, failed to compromise. That result triggered the draconian policy to shackle spending even more.  

Since then, Congress and the Obama administration enacted moderate and temporary measures that eased the impact of the cuts.  Lawmakers must enact measures soon that would again ease cuts that affect anti-hunger programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). The domestic nutrition program, which is already stretched to meet unprecedented need, provides funding for food banks to purchase nutritious foods and to help transport and deliver that food to Americans in need.

“Sequestration is unacceptable and unsustainable. It is a decision that can be changed, if,” Kegan stressed, “Congress makes it a priority. But they have to hear from their constituents.”

There are several programs under the jurisdiction of the agricultural committee that are critical in our efforts to end hunger, but would be subject to a sequestration squeeze. The WIC program supports nutrition for children from low-income families so they grow healthy but would lose vital funding if the automatic cuts are not removed. The dollars that fund food aid and increase our ability to buy food closer to disasters like Nepal would be in jeopardy if sequestration goes into effect.  And the poverty-assistance programs like low-income housing assistance and Head Start would also be at risk.

Bread members are urged to tell their members of Congress to enact measures that will remove sequestration from the budget and develop a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.

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

Churches and Charities are Key Partners, But Can't Fight Hunger Alone

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Federal nutrition programs are finding ways to connect the people who rely on them with a healthy selection of foods. Jim Stipe for Bread for the World.

By Alyssa Casey

“Many people call SNAP a safety net, but for me it was like a trampoline – bouncing my family back into work and a brighter future,” said Keleigh Green-Patton, a working mother and former SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) recipient, who recently testified on Capitol Hill.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives held two separate hearings, both on critical anti-hunger programs. The House Agriculture Committee focused on the relationship between SNAP and the charitable sector, while the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on serving students and families through child nutrition programs.

During the SNAP hearing, Green-Patton told her story of turning to SNAP after losing her job, participating in a job-training program through the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and then finding employment and moving off SNAP. While the three-month training program was facilitated by the food depository, the program was unpaid, and so to keep food on her family’s table, Green-Patton turned to SNAP.

In addition to Green-Patton, expert witnesses from food banks and anti-hunger programs emphasized the critical role of SNAP, even in the midst of the innovative work being done by private charitable organizations. “We are proud of our daily impact on hunger, but it pales in comparison to the tremendous job done by federal nutrition programs, including SNAP, WIC, CACFP, School Lunch and Breakfast and Summer Meals,” said Kate Maehr, chief executive officer of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) echoed this theme by citing Bread for the World’s research on charities and hunger. “I think the message that’s loud and clear is that churches and charities cannot do it on their own. To put it in perspective, I have a fact sheet here from Bread for the World… it says federal assistance for food and nutrition programs [in 2013] was at about $102 billion. Assistance from churches and charities was at $5.2 billion.”

It is encouraging to see members of Congress acknowledge the hard work of charitable organizations in feeding hungry people. But with federal nutrition programs – including SNAP, school meals, and WIC – providing 19 times more food assistance than private charities, these hearings couldn’t have been timelier. Members of Congress in the Education and Workforce Committee also heard from a panel of witnesses who spoke to the effectiveness of and need for strong child nutrition programs.

Charitable organizations, including food banks and pantries, churches, and faith organizations, are critical partners in the fight against hunger because they are on the ground in so many local communities. Yet many of these organizations rely largely on donations, work with extremely limited resources, and their presence varies by region. They cannot provide the certainty and consistency of SNAP or child nutrition programs.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

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

We Need You on Lobby Day: Strength in Numbers

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Bread for the World activists walking through the Russell Senate Office Building during a Lobby Day. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

By Zerline Hughes

Most of us are familiar with that now-antiquated Schoolhouse Rock cartoon on how a bill becomes a law. You know the one, where the talking bill travels on the steps of the Capitol singing about patience and courage, sitting and waiting in committee. Though still very applicable today, what that animated lesson doesn’t explain is how people – not necessarily our congressional leaders – are needed to help make a bill into a law.

Petitions, letters, emails, and phone calls to your representatives are definitely one way to make change happen. Even social media is a way to incite change.  However, the most effective way to influence your members of Congress on an issue is to personally meet with them. And what better time than Bread for the World’s Lobby Day – when a host of advocates from all walks of life and from across the country band together to do it as a large contingency.

Bread’s Lobby Day is around the corner – June 9. This year, much is at stake. June will be an important month, and Congress will be in the middle of debating important pieces of legislation such as the reauthorization of the child nutrition bill, among others. We believe we can convince Congress to do what's right for people struggling with hunger and poverty. However, we can't do it alone. We need you!

“I'm on Capitol Hill quite a bit, and I can tell you there are many Christians in Congress. And they can be moved by Christ,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread.  “They can be moved by faith. Moved by the gospel. There's a power there that the special interests just can't compete with.”

Lobby Day will begin with worship, followed by an issues briefing, and then visits to congressional offices on Capitol Hill. In the evening, Bread will host a reception honoring members of Congress who have championed efforts to end hunger and poverty. The day will end with a closing worship service.

Walking through the halls of Congress and meeting decision makers or their staff is exciting and easy. For legislators, a visit from a constituent is a welcome event. They want to hear about what is going on at home.

Once you make it known to your member of Congress that hunger is of dire importance to you and your family, our hope is that it becomes their priority. You also empower your legislator to act on your behalf. When officials hear directly from constituents, they get a better understanding of what you and your counterparts deem important.

And that’s why we need you.                  

Join us June 9.  Help bring us one step closer to ending hunger. Register today for Bread’s Lobby Day and join us in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill.

Zerline Hughes is a media relations consultant at Bread for the World.

 

 

 

Update on 2015 Offering of Letters Legislation

OL2015-Blog

By Bread Staff

Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children focuses on our federal government's child nutrition programs. The heaviest activity in Congress on this issue is expected later in the year when a bill setting funding and policy for the major child nutrition programs is introduced.

But some other legislative activity is happening. Following is an update on some of it:

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reintroduced the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (S. 613) on Feb. 27. The bill aims to improve the summer meal programs and help give more children access to meals and programs during the summer months. The bill specifically would:

  • Lower the area eligibility threshold to allow communities to participate if 40 percent of the children in the area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Currently, a summer meal site qualifies if 50 percent or more of children in the area qualify for free or reduced-price school meals as defined by school or census data. The current threshold prevents many communities with significant numbers of low-income children, but not a high enough concentration of poverty, from participating. In addition, the 50 percent threshold is inconsistent with federally funded summer programs, such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center programs and Title I, which have 40 percent thresholds. These important education programs should all be able to provide summer meals. 15725784024_a8738dc2e9_o
  • Allow local government agencies and private nonprofit organizations to feed children year-round through the Summer Food Service Program. Currently, sponsors must apply to and operate the Summer Food Service Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) separately in order to feed children — often the same children — after school and during the summer. This has created duplicative paperwork and confusing administrative rules that discourage participation.
  • Provide funding for transportation grants to fund innovative approaches to providing meals and mobile meal trucks. Transportation is one of the biggest barriers to children's participation in summer programs. These grants will increase low-income children's access to summer meals in rural and other under-served areas.
  • Allow all sites to serve a third meal. Many summer meal sites provide child care to working parents and operate all day, but most sites are able to serve only two meals. This leaves children without enough nutrition to get through the day or forces sites to use program dollars for food.

Bread for the World has endorsed this bill and supports this and other efforts to strengthen and improve summer nutrition programs.

The other primary bill to improve summer meals, which was introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in the previous Congress — the Summer EBT bill — has not been reintroduced yet in this Congress.

Keep those letters coming! Bread's office in Washington, D.C., has received a few reports from congregations elsewhere in the country about the Offering of Letters that they have held. Many more congregations and faith communities have letter-writing events planned for this year. Bread encourages you to keep your letters coming!

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Photo: Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Child Nutrition Legislation Kicks Off With a Hearing on Wednesday

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SOCIAL SHARE: Click on the image above to open in a new window, then right click and save it. Tweet it or put it on your Facebook wall and tag your member of Congress. Tell him/her to #FeedOurChildren and pass a child nutrition bill that closes the hunger gap.

By Robin Stephenson

The moment has arrived! 

The first step towards passing a child nutrition bill that can end the hunger gap is here. The House will hold its first hearing titled “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs” this Wednesday at 10 a.m. EDT. You can watch the hearing via a live webcast.

“This really kicks off the moment when our Offering of Letters Campaign starts moving in Congress,” said Christine Meléndez Ashley, Bread for the World’s policy expert on child nutrition. 

Every five years, Congress must craft a bill that sets the policy for child nutrition programs, which includes those for school meals, summer feeding, and the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) nutrition program. Many of you have already written letters as part of the 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children, letting Congress know their constituents at home care.

Over 16 million children in the U.S. don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. School lunch or breakfast is sometimes the only nutritious meal children from low-income families receive. It is easier for a nourished child to pay attention in class and learn more quickly. A good education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty later in life.

As we tune into the hearing tomorrow, we look for signs the House Education and Workforce Committee – the committee that will write the first draft of legislation – has the facts and is making ending hunger its target.

“This is the committee’s first chance to hear from experts on child nutrition programs,” Meléndez Ashley said. “The hearing will not only give us insight into the future of programs that keep hunger at bay for millions of kids, but also signal what members are thinking about in terms of child nutrition policy priorities.”

For example, summer is the hungriest time for kids. Pilot programs have shown that we can improve access to nutrition during the summer months. This committee has the opportunity to build on those programs and reach more children.

Another area that Bread will watch closely is whether committee members are viewing child hunger with a wider lens.

Parents who utilize child nutrition programs usually have a job, but low-income paychecks are not stretching to the dinner table - let alone the lunch counter. The last time Congress passed a child nutrition bill, they cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), a program that helps put food on the dinner table. When nearly half of SNAP recipients are children, cutting benefits makes no sense if ending hunger is the priority.

The budget proposals passed by both the Senate and House last month repeat a disturbing trend in Congress to balance the budget by cutting anti-hunger programs, especially SNAP. Tomorrow the House Agriculture Committee will continue their series of hearings reviewing the food stamp program in what some fear is a veiled attempt to cut even more. It's time for a new trend: making ending hunger a priority.

Tell Congress to act for kids. Don’t let the moment slip us by.

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

Loosening Poverty's Grip On The Next Generation

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By Bread Staff

Bread for the World, the World Bank, and leaders of 30 faith groups and organizations came together today to issue a bold call - let's end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. 

Eradicating hunger and extreme poverty is no longer a dream, but a possibility in 15 years, according to research by Bread for the World and the World Bank.

"Now that it has become clear that it is feasible to end extreme poverty, faith communities are committing ourselves to ramp up our advocacy. We are building a movement that will translate this possibility into political commitment,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty or on $1.25 a day has been halved to less than one billion. “This unprecedented progress in ending hunger and extreme poverty is an example of our loving God moving through time, transforming our world,” Beckmann said. 

Many countries, like Bangladesh, Brazil, and the United Kingdom have made huge strides in cutting hunger and poverty. However, hunger and poverty has increased in the United States. Today, 49 million Americans, including 15 million children, don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. 

Still, powerful forces in the U.S. Congress have been pushing for deep cuts in anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs. The cuts to these programs have so far been minimal thanks in part to a coalition of faith groups working to ending hunger.

“Now is the time for the United States to step up to the plate and make ending hunger and poverty a priority,” Beckmann said. “As Christians, we believe the moral measure of a country is based on how the most poor and vulnerable people fare.”

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources.

 

"Please Open Immediately!" Says Teenager's Letter to Congressman

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Letter writing at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa. Robin Prestage for Bread for the World.

By Larry Hollar

“Please open immediately!”

Michaela Drobak, 17, wrote these words of urgency on the envelope of her letter to U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA-08) at a recent Offering of Letters on child nutrition at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Yardley, Pa.

When activist Mary Ann Bentz later organized a diverse Bread delegation to meet locally with Fitzpatrick and a staffer, they presented Drobak’s letter and more than 220 others from four area faith communities—with Michaela’s on top. The congressman read Drobak’s letter without delay. “He read it quietly, then agreed that she was an intelligent writer and had expressed her concerns about feeding hungry children well,” reported local activist Bob Anderson.

Churches in Bucks County, Pa., are working hard and creatively to reduce hunger, through community meals, food pantries, backpack programs, community gardens, education, and advocacy. A new Food Insecurity Alliance, bringing together churches, government, and the private sector, is taking shape, reflecting that “partnerships and relationships are key,” says Diane Casey of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection. “Last year the congressman visited our shared meal for veterans, families, seniors and others living in poverty, so he has seen these realities and heard these voices personally.”

Fitzpatrick had one of the strongest voting records among House Republicans on Bread issues in the last Congress—but the Bread delegation visiting him saw room for improvement.  “His voting record is mixed on hunger issues. We made it clear that we knew this record and would report to our faith communities on his votes and give credit where it is due,” Anderson said.

Fitzpatrick voted to reduce SNAP (formerly food stamps) cuts as Bread urged, but also voted last year for the House-passed budget which Bread opposed. “He commended our faith communities for writing letters and urged us to ask others to write,” Anderson said. More letters give political cover for members of Congress to do what constituents want.

“The congressman is a person of faith, and our delegation gave him scriptural and practical reasons why voting for child nutrition programs made sense,” Anderson noted, adding that “the congressman spent much more time with us than we expected.” Afterwards, Anderson wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper.

Michaela Drobak is right—hungry children can’t wait for the life-giving food that child nutrition programs offer. Schedule your Offering of Letters today, using resources at www.bread.org/ol .

Larry Hollar is a senior Bread for the World regional organizer working with activists in Northeastern states.

 

 

Let's End Extreme Poverty and Hunger

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By Bread Staff

The figures are in the billions, but the message is simple. In the last 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from nearly 2 billion people to fewer than 1 billion people  worldwide. People in extreme poverty live on less than $1.25 a day.

“Some say it’s impossible to end poverty – especially in just 15 years. But we know it’s possible,” said Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, in a speech this week to kick off the organization's spring meeting.

Members of Bread for the World and our faith partners have known all along that we can end extreme poverty and hunger. The unprecedented progress that the world is making against hunger and poverty is an example of our loving God transforming our world (#faith2endpoverty).

We are the first generation in human history with the knowledge and capabilities needed to end poverty. “Ending extreme poverty is no longer a dream,” Kim said.  

During his speech, Kim presented varying pictures of poverty in the world, but one stands out: “Poverty is having to put your children to bed without food.”

Our 2015 Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children is one of the key tools to end hunger and poverty in the United States. We must ensure that our national child nutrition programs are fully funded. If you have not yet done so, tell your members of Congress that it must be so. 

 

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

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