New report explores opportunities to rebalance US farm policies

While people in the United States are celebrating a bountiful Thanksgiving today, many people in the developing world are not so lucky. This new report from Bread for the World provides an eye-opening look into world hunger and is a reminder of those who wake up every day without knowing when they will get their next meal — another reason why we should give thanks today.

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This week, Bread for the World launched its 2012 Hunger Report. With the country focusing on family and food for the Thanksgiving holiday, it could not come at a better time. The report, “Rebalancing Act,” includes several recommendations for strengthening international food aid and policies. One suggestion, supported by panelists at Monday’s launch, which I had the opportunity to attend, is to make food aid more effective by allowing for more local and regional food purchases.

Kenya’s Ambassador Elkanah Odembo, one panelist at the event, drove home the importance of international food aid, declaring, “It is in the interest of the United States to invest in Africa to provide aid that is also an investment in sustainable livelihoods.”

The ambassador also talked about his hopes for the success of Feed the Future (FTF), the US government’s commitment to ending hunger in developing countries, calling it a positive beginning step toward these types of investments.

Matoke tree planting in Uganda

“FTF is exciting,” he said, “because it looks at food security in totality—production, accessibility and quality,” before praising other programs targeted at women, land and environment. He also warned that for the program to be successful, it must consider and insert itself in the bigger context of governance and infrastructure — it cannot be a stand alone initiative.

Domestically, the report proposes a rebalancing of farm policies to improve efficiency, encourage production and distribution of healthy foods, support rural development, and help farmers manage risk more efficiently. The report also calls for the protection of the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Since half of the program’s benefactors are children, public health professor and panelist Dr. Mariana Chilton’s announcement that “children are ingesting our policies and programs every day” rang true. These programs have a huge impact on not only child growth but also public health. For instance, for someone who is food insecure, the risk of a hospital visit increases 22 percent — a hospital visit that is more costly than food assistance programs.

Other panelists at the report’s launch included Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann and Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, both of whom focused similarly on child development and global health.

“Congress has a great opportunity to trim our federal deficit and fix our broken food system,” said Rev. Beckmann. “Tomorrow, the congressional Super Committee will report on how it plans to save taxpayer dollars. Today, we are offering a solution that will not only save money but save our country’s small farmers.”

So, while you’re enjoying your turkey, stuffing and other Thanksgiving traditions today, take a moment to think about how important food is. And think of others around the world who, with continued funding for programs like Feed the Future, can enjoy the same security for their own families -– all for less than just 1 percent of the US Federal budget.

Photo credit: Bread for the World