In his visit to the United States last month, Pope Francis spoke about ending hunger.
“I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty,” he said during his address to Congress. “The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”
Responding to this plea, Bread for the World, a non-partisan, Christian citizens’ movement seeking to end hunger, is asking U.S. lawmakers to support the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. In the spirit of Pope Francis, Bread for the World is petitioning the help of faith leaders to assure passage of S. 525.
The Food for Peace Reform Act seeks to restructure the federal government’s food aid programs, which provide emergency food aid to people around the world. The changes would not only save millions in program efficiency, according to the bill’s sponsors, it has the potential to help feed up to 9 million more people each year.
According to Bread for the World, the reform act puts new measures in three areas.
First, it removes a requirement that all food sent abroad in emergencies be grown in the United States. A 2009 study by the Government Accountability Office found that shipping U.S. food to Africa costs 34 percent more than to buy it there. Additionally, purchasing food from countries in the region would arrive 11 to 14 weeks faster, the U.S. Agency for International Development estimates. The legislation allows either U.S. food or locally and regionally grown commodities to be used, whichever option is most efficient.
Second, the bill eliminates a requirement that 50 percent of food aid be shipped on U.S.-flagged vessels. Bread for the World (BFW) cited a study showing that eliminating this cargo preference rule would improve response time and save an estimated $50 million per year.
Finally, S. 525 would end a practice called food aid monetization. This practice is the epitome of government inefficiency and waste. It works like this: The U.S. government (USG) purchases U.S.-produced food, then ships the food overseas on U.S.-flagged ships. The government then donates food to relief organizations and those agencies then sell the food in developing countries. Finally, aid organizations use proceeds to finance development projects. According to BFW, this complicated monetization practice “loses an average of 25 cents of every taxpayer dollar spent on food aid.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on S. 525 this fall. In Wisconsin, BFW is asking religious leaders to contact Sen. Ron Johnson, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and urge him to support the legislation. BFW says that if the committee does not pass the bill this fall, it is unlikely that reforms to food aid will be made “in the foreseeable future.”
Religious leaders can sign an online petition asking Sen. Johnson to support S. 525 (Bread for the World — Faith Leaders’ Letter to Sen. Johnson http://bit.ly/BFW_food). BFW also asks faith leaders to call the senator’s office and let him know that support for this bill would help the U.S. aid up to 9 million more people in critical need every year.
To learn more or to support this cause, contact Zach Schmidt, Bread for the World regional organizer, by phone, (312) 890-3610, or email: [email protected]
As Pope Francis reminds us, the fight against hunger is fought on many fronts. On the emergency food aid front, it’s a battle we can win.