By William Lambers
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.
In the Central African Republic, rebel groups are killing civilians and forcing thousands to seek refuge at churches. These war victims have lost everything. They are starving. In South Sudan, new fighting between the government and opposition forces has displaced thousands who need food.
These crisis areas all have something in common. They receive life-saving aid from the U.S. Food for Peace program, an initiative started way back in the Eisenhower administration. Its funding is set in the farm bill.
Food for Peace is the single biggest donor to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), the largest hunger relief organization. The WFP depends on voluntary donations from Food for Peace. Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and other charities also receive Food for Peace or related funding. So what Congress decides has a huge impact. We want decisions that reflect our values as a people and a nation.
You can make your voice heard in support of the starving children by contacting your elected officials. We need strong funding for Food for Peace as well as reforms to ensure aid groups can purchase the food locally in developing countries when possible. Nearly $2 billion in annual funding would be good for Food for Peace, and still leaves it roughly less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget.
Here at home we need to fight hunger, which is on the increase. With high unemployment rates, and low wages for many jobs, millions of Americans need support to put food on the table. They turn to the food stamp program and local food banks.
Congress provides funding for these programs through the farm bill. Right now, there are plans to cut food stamps further despite there being nearly 50 million “food insecure” or hungry Americans. That would put an enormous strain on food banks, which are already stretched thin. Food banks rely on federal support in addition to donations they receive from the public.
Even as little as eight people writing to their representatives about an issue can make it a top priority. Make your priorities known that you want to fight hunger both here at home and abroad. For there is enough food on the planet for everyone.
William Lambers is the author of “Ending World Hunger” and the “Spirit of the Marshall Plan.” He is a blogger for the Huffington Post.