CRS advocate for international food security

by Deacon Don Weigel
Fri, Apr 26th 2019 12:25 pm

In March and April of this year, Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with Catholic Charities, visited the offices in New York state of virtually every member of Congress and both senators. This was organized as a Global Solidarity Advocacy event, designed to advocate for continued funding for U.S. and international food security.

The situation around the world, and even in our own country, is staggering in its scope: 1 in 9 people around the globe do not have enough to eat, which includes over 15.6 million households in the United States. America's economy is approaching record lows of unemployment, but the number of Americans who are food insecure continues to increase. Today, 40 million Americans suffer from food insecurity including 1 in 6 children. Those who are most vulnerable - children, disabled and elderly - continue to be the most susceptible.

In our country, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Women, Infants and Children program, and summer meals and after-school meal programs are critical in meeting household nutritional needs. The changing realities of poverty mean today the very communities that produce our nation's food - rural communities - see the highest rates of participation in SNAP.

Outside of the United States, millions of our brothers and sisters are facing hunger due to conflict and drought. Countries like South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen have been mired in violence for the last several years, and there are great concerns about countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. Drought continues to persist across the globe, including some parts of the Horn of Africa and Central America.

According to USAID's Famine Early Warning System, 83 million people are expected to need food assistance in 2019, up 7 million from the year before. This figure does not include  more  recent  challenges  such  as  helping  Rohingya or Venezuelan refugees.

Pope Francis shared these words about hunger in the world, "Let us be clear. Food shortage is not something natural, it is not a given, something obvious or self-evident. ... The earth, abused and exploited, continues in many parts of the world to yield its fruits, offering us the best of itself. The faces of the starving remind us that we have foiled its purposes."

Hunger should never be considered the norm, and international food security programs are essential elements to preventing and ending global hunger. Our Catholic faith calls us to honor the dignity of every human being. We must ensure that all people have regular access to enough nutritious food.

Given these situations, we are advocating for keeping the funding for important poverty-reducing programs at levels from the past years, or even increasing that funding. There is a common misconception about how much of our federal budget is spent in international assistance. The truth is that historically, about 1 percent of total spending goes to foreign assistance - just 1 percent.

While foreign assistance has large bipartisan support, each of the last three years the administration has proposed to reduce foreign aid by a third. We are urging Congress to maintain funding levels that will keep these important programs in place. Thanks to constituent voices like yours, Congress has rejected these cuts and largely maintained these assistance programs.

As the world's wealthiest nation and the largest provider of international humanitarian assistance, the United States plays a key role in protecting and promoting the global common good, addressing chronic causes of poverty, and responding to complex humanitarian emergencies. Write or call your senator and member of Congress and tell them to keep the funding for poverty-reducing programs.

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