It was President Harry Truman who once said “No nation is any healthier than its children.” So where do things stand right now in America? Over twenty percent of children live with hunger or “food insecurity.”
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Imagine if all the people in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan were forced to leave their homes. What if conflict displaced this entire population? It would be a gigantic humanitarian nightmare.
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Recognizing the growing humanitarian emergencies around the world, members of the House and Senate are proposing increased funding for the International Disaster Assistance Program (IDA). Drafts of spending bills that boost IDA funding have been approved in both chambers.
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As President Obama delivers the State of the Union, there are hunger emergencies both at home and abroad.
At this very moment, children in Syria are starving because of food shortages caused by the civil war. Millions of families have been displaced and lost their livelihoods.
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Congress will soon be voting on the new farm bill legislation. At that time, funding for programs that fight hunger locally and globally will be decided.
You may have seen in the news the typhoon in the Philippines that left millions without homes and food. In Syria, war has killed children not only because of the fighting, but because of malnutrition caused by the conflict. Food shortages are always the companion of war and disasters. Farming areas are often destroyed in these tragedies.
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The horrific numbers increase daily from the war in Syria. The UN now says that 6.3 million Syrians need life-saving food aid. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) requires $2 billion to feed them in 2014. If this war continues, these numbers will go up again.
“This is the worst humanitarian crisis that we have seen in decades, with every day more vulnerable Syrians pushed into hunger,” says Muhannad Hadi, Syria coordinator for WFP.
The U.S. Congress needs to act and boost our Food for Peace program to meet this Syrian emergency as well as others. As the new year approaches, the Philippines, Central African Republic, Mali, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan have been struck by conflict or natural disasters.
The Farm Bill legislation, which Congress will take up again in January, is where Food for Peace funding is decided.
WFP depends on Food for Peace as its largest single donor. It’s crucial that Congress support Food for Peace when you consider the ongoing humanitarian emergencies.World Food Day
David Kauck of Save the Children points out that reforms to Food for Peace must also be passed. “These changes would include eliminating restrictions on the use of local and regional food procurement; repealing inefficient shipping requirements; and scaling down food aid monetization over a period of time, accompanied by an equivalent increase in development assistance.”
When a disaster occurs, such as the typhoon in the Philippines, aid groups can sometimes use local food sources to feed those in need. Aid groups must have no restrictions on using this option.
Kauck adds, “Early research shows that the reforms could provide considerable cost savings resulting in more aid to more children, greater flexibility to use the most appropriate approach available to assist people in need, and faster humanitarian response times.”
The Farm Bill impacts both our domestic and foreign policies. A strong Farm Bill feeds the hungry both at home and abroad. Only in this way can we be strong as a nation, and also further global peace and stability.
Food aid is the only thing that will save children from damaging and even deadly malnutrition. Food is a force that can help restore peace.
We also know there is enough food on the planet for everyone, and no one, especially children, should be without.
Let’s remember that our decisions on food aid policy can change lives and make or break an entire generation in whole countries and regions. So let’s take the right action on the Farm Bill. Let us choose Food for Peace.
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We need a Farm Bill that fights hunger in America and preserves the food stamp (SNAP) program. There are millions of Americans struggling because of unemployment and low wages. Yet, SNAP cuts took effect November 1st and more might be on the way depending what Congress does.
Feeding America’s Bob Aiken says, “We’ve seen throughout our network of food banks the impact that these cuts are already beginning to have — with longer lines and an anticipated growth in need. Our food banks are stretched and charity alone can’t make up for this cut to federal assistance”
Cuts to food stamps is not going to create jobs and higher wages. In fact, it will harm hungry Americans and grocers where the stamps are redeemed. Part of the House proposal on SNAP also includes eliminating free school meals for 210,000 children. Why is nutrition and education being cut?
The Farm Bill is equally important for our foreign policy. The U.S. Food for Peace initiative is the single largest donor to the UN World Food Program, which fights hunger in over 70 countries.
Food for Peace donations feed people in the Philippines, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen, Haiti, Mali and many other countries. With so many wars and disasters ongoing more food is desperately needed. Children are starving in these countries.
They are not asking for much. They just want a life-saving treatment of Plumpy’Nut to prevent the irreversible effects of malnutrition. Or a child whose life could be changed if there could be a school meal. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN had to cut school meals and nutrition for children because of low funds.
As George Marshall once said, “hunger and insecurity are the worst enemies of peace.” That philosophy guided U.S. foreign policy during our Greatest Generation. Food was the driver of writing the peace. It should be that way today too.
Congress has to get its act together and pass a Farm Bill with a strong Food for Peace program. This should include local purchase of food as was done recently when a donation allowed WFP to buy rice from farmers in the Philippines.
We can’t just drift along pretending there is not a major world hunger crisis ongoing that is a danger to everyone’s security.
Domestically, Congress needs to strengthen our nutrition programs. Our food banks need support as they help hungry Americans get back on their feet. Congress has to realize this and finish a responsible Farm Bill.
article originally published at The Huffington Post.
Congress can make or break our fight against hunger at home and overseas. Both food stamps, to help impoverished Americans, and the global Food for Peace program are on the line in Farm Bill meetings starting this week.
With over 49 million Americans suffering from hunger, and high unemployment rates, it makes no sense to cut back the food stamp (SNAP) program. Yet on November 1 there will be reductions in SNAP and more may be coming. The House of Representatives is proposing nearly $ 40 billion dollars worth of cuts in SNAP. Their plan also calls for the elimination of free school meals for over 200,000 children.
Where will hungry Americans go for help? They will look to food banks, but these are already overstretched and cannot make up the difference. The economy is suffering and hunger will escalate in America if Congress dismantles food safety nets.
Bob Aiken, the CEO of Feeding America says, “We anticipate that, faced with this sudden drop in their monthly food budget, many people who receive SNAP benefits will seek additional help from our food banks and the agencies they serve. Unfortunately, our food banks across the nation continue to be stretched thin in their efforts to meet sustained high need in the wake of the recession.”
Food stamps have a history of helping Americans living in poverty. In 1939 food stamps were first introduced to help low-income families. Studies showed the needy were getting more nutritious foods as a result. Grocers liked the plan because the stamps were redeemed to buy food at their stores.
As America entered World War II, food stamps were seen as vital for keeping the whole nation strong. In 1943, because Americans were back at work in large part, the need for food stamps ended. Secretary of Agriculture Claude Wickard called the program “an outstanding success.” The U.S. did continue food aid with school lunch programs and relief for the handicapped and elderly during these war years.
Today, Congress wants to roll back food stamps before economic recovery has taken place. Their plan puts more strain on the nation’s hungry and food bank system. Their plan takes away school meals. What they should do is strengthen the food stamp plan and the Federal Emergency Food Assistance (TEFAP) program which supports food banks. When jobs and wages start to return then take up large reductions in food stamps.
The Food for Peace program is also a major part of the Farm Bill. Congress has to decide the level of funding. Food for Peace supports hunger relief in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Haiti, Mali, Yemen and many other countries. It’s an extension of Wickard’s World War II philosophy that “Food will win the war and write the peace.”
No country or region will have stability if it suffers from malnutrition. That is why Food for Peace, as well as the McGovern-Dole global school lunch plan, need support in Congress. As Dwight Eisenhower said, hungry children scrapping in garbage heaps cannot be expected to become apostles of peace. We need to wage war against hunger and want. Food for Peace is the largest supplier of the UN World Food Programme, the lead hunger fighting organization.
International food aid makes up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget. So there is no savings to cost cut here. What cuts would do is sink our foreign policy.
Congress has a lot on its plate as it starts back to work. Decisions in the coming weeks can drastically impact the hungry here at home and abroad. That will be a legacy of this Congress, how it responds to these difficult times.
Americans must continue to give their input as to how to run things. Leadership can come from any corner. Now is the stretch run for the Farm Bill. As Amelia Kegan, a policy analyst for Bread for the World says, “It’ll be an intense period, but as you well know, this is often the most important part of any race.”
Originally published at the Huffington Post