Photo credit: Nehanda Radio
When we launched the Reverse Hunger campaign on World Food Day 2011, we set out to ensure that the U.S. Farm Bill reflected our Jewish values, ensuring that our international food aid programs feed more hungry people and support local farmers abroad. Never could we have imagined how incredible, sometimes dysfunctional, and downright comical this journey would be.
Today is the culmination of that journey. Later this afternoon, the President will sign the U.S. Farm Bill (officially known as the Agricultural Act of 2014) into law. While AJWS does not have a position on the entire bill, a massive piece of legislation that shapes the majority of U.S. food and agricultural policies, we welcome the modest, yet critical improvements to international food aid programs.
The changes in this bill are aimed at increasing flexibility: making it easier to utilize alternative food aid approaches and to move away from inefficient practices that slow down delivery and sometimes undermine our goals of helping people for the long-haul. Read More
For more than two years, American Jewish World Service has been working to improve the way the United States delivers life-saving food assistance to millions of hungry people worldwide. Thanks in part to the efforts of committed AJWS activists, AJWS and other allies were able to push forward incremental improvements to food aid programs in the Senate Farm Bill. A vote in the House of Representatives for even stronger reforms fell short by just nine votes.
The United States’ well-intentioned, but ill-advised food aid response in the wake of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti demonstrated that the U.S. food aid system was long over-due for a makeover. Typhoon Haiyan and the ongoing massive humanitarian crisis in the Philippines, has only added urgency to that fight. Read More
The fight for food aid reform is about to come down to an historic vote. With our partners at the leading development and humanitarian organizations in the country, we just released a joint statement of our support for updating the U.S. food aid system, making it more flexible and effective.
Building on the ideas for reform we have been promoting for years, last month President Obama called for improvements to our outdated and inefficient international food aid system. This week the House will vote on a bi-partisan amendment, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) to provide greater flexibility and help more people with our international food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars.
As committed AJWS activist Jonathan Zasloff recently noted the reforms have widespread support, from organizations spanning the ideological divide from the Heritage Foundation to the Center for American Progress. It’s not surprising, as the reforms are really just common sense updates to outdated laws.
[The current, outdated law requires that] the vast majority of our aid be provided in the form of U.S.-sourced commodities, but] the U.S. needs greater flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies and longer-term food insecurity. In emergency situations in particular, the delivery of U.S. commodities can be extremely difficult – due to insecurity, as has been the case in Syria, or due to a host of other obstacles. Purchasing food locally or regionally, or providing cash transfers/food vouchers that work through local market systems, is often the best option for getting food aid to people who need it. Independent research has shown this approach can reach people considerably faster than shipping commodities from the U.S. These are well-tested and proven approaches that come with strong safeguards to ensure assistance is delivered quickly and not diverted from those in need.
Email your representative in Congress now and tell him or her that food aid reform matters to you!
When 870 million people around the world suffering from hunger every day, making every food aid dollar count is not only a responsible use of taxpayer money — it is a moral imperative. We thank all of our partners and supporters who have brought us so close to making these critically important reforms into a reality.
Originally posted on the blog of the Brooklyn Food Coalition.
This looks good.
As part of the 2014 Budget Request released last week, President Obama included a proposal that would overhaul America’s international food aid system. It’s not a perfect proposal and it still needs to be approved by Congress, but it’s a huge leap forward.
Right now, the U.S. has a well-intentioned yet wildly inefficient food aid system. Unlike other donor countries, the U.S. ships food from here rather than donating money to purchase food available in or near disaster-stricken countries. As a way of unloading surplus grain, this system works well. As a smart, efficient way of responding to humanitarian crises, it’s atrocious. Read More
Contradictions are popping up a lot around here lately: By now, you’ve likely heard AJWS say “U.S. food aid saves lives but it’s also causing more hunger.” We’re often uncomfortable with contradictions like these, and instead, crave clear messages that we can embrace: hunger is bad. Aid is good. Too bad things can’t be that simple.
It turns out that food aid has been a complicated topic all the way back to biblical times, when the imprisoned patriarch Joseph was charged with devising a plan for avoiding a hunger crisis in Egypt. He decided to hoard food during the “seven years of plenty” and distribute it to hungry Egyptians during the “seven years of famine”—the world’s earliest example of in-kind food aid. Read More
During the keynote speech of the Hazon Food Conference, which was held in Davis, California last weekend, Judith Belasco, Hazon’s Director of Food Programs, reminded us that four years ago the expression “New Jewish Food Movement” didn’t even exist.
Well, if the conference was any indication, the New Jewish Food Movement is thriving, consisting of hundreds of Jewish individuals and communities across the country who are working to change a world where U.S. food aid policy undermines farmers in developing countries, where 50 million people in the U.S. face food insecurity every day and where people can’t access or afford fresh food in neighborhoods like the South Bronx, which has only twelve grocery stores for 88,000 people.
There are some unusual “crops” mentioned in the U.S. Farm Bill! Which of the following is regulated by the bill?
A. Grain to distribute to survivors of disasters
B. Corn grown to produce biofuel
C. Field of wheat eligible for a generous government subsidy
D. All of the above
That’s right. But did you know that these things are all harming communities in the developing world?
Take our quick quiz now to test your knowledge about the global impact of the Farm Bill. The bill is coming up for reform in 2012, and the more we know, the more we can do to make a difference.
We read in Parshat Chukkat about the death of Miriam: “Miriam died and she was buried there. There was no water for the assembly, and [the Children of Israel] gathered against Moshe and Aharon.” This odd and disjointed sequence of verses is puzzling, and leads the Talmud to connect Miriam’s death with the disappearance of water: “From here we learn that all forty years [in the desert, the Children of Israel] had a well because of Miriam’s merit.”
For a piece of legislation with such an innocuous-sounding name, the U.S. Farm Bill sure causes a lot of damage. The Farm Bill impacts food prices and the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in developing countries worldwide. From its guidelines on subsidies to its approach to food aid, this piece of domestic legislation is causing quite a lot of trouble overseas.
For example: after the earthquake in 2010, Haitian rice farmers found themselves in a losing competition with free U.S. rice distributed as food aid. And several years ago, U.S. subsidies for biofuels helped send the price of corn soaring, contributing to a global food crisis in 2008 that left 100 million more people hungry.
In fact, policies in the Farm Bill impact nearly all of the grassroots NGOs and local communities that AJWS works with in developing countries. And unfortunately, they can’t do a thing about it.
But we can.
The Farm Bill is up for revision in 2012, and we have the power to reform it for the better.
I’ll be reaching out to you in the coming months to tell you more about ways to take action. In the meantime, visit our advocacy page to learn more and consider participating in Global Hunger Shabbat, in November.