Farm Bill meetings to decide fate of food aid
By William Lambers on October 22, 2013
Bread for the World said today the U.S. Congress will start to finalize the Farm Bill on October 30th. What's at stake is funding for programs that fight hunger in America and overseas. These include the food stamps program that feeds Americans in need and the Food for Peace plan that provides aid to developing countries.
Since both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed their versions of the Farm Bill the "conference process" must begin. Bread for the World explains this is where "the House and Senate try to reconcile the bills into a single piece of legislation."
The House wants to cut the food stamps program (SNAP) by nearly $40 billion dollars over 10 years. The Senate version has $4 billion in cuts over the same time period, but includes improvements to the program according to Bread for the World.
Feeding America and other advocates say cuts to food stamps will overwhelm the nation's system of food banks with increased demand. With 49 million Americans suffering from hunger, massive cuts to food stamps will be devastating.
Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America said last month, "Charity absolutely cannot make up for this substantial cut to federal food assistance. The legislation will cause at least four million individuals to lose their SNAP benefits entirely, 850,000 households will lose an average $90 per month in SNAP benefits, and 210,000 children will lose free school meals."
On November 1st automatic food stamp cuts will take place with the expiration of benefits from the federal stimulus program. Any cuts resulting from the Farm Bill will be in addition.
The U.S. Food for Peace program is also part of the Farm Bill. This is the main tool of the U.S. in fighting world hunger. There are 842 million people globally who suffer from hunger. Food for Peace is the largest single donor to the UN World Food Programme (WFP). These donations fight hunger in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti and many other countries. The World Food Program USA and other groups are calling for increased funding for Food For Peace and also reforms to improve efficiency.
The McGovern-Dole school lunch program is also in need of increased funding in the Farm Bill. This program funds WFP, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and other groups so they can provide school meals around the globe. Recently marathon champion Paul Tergat, who received WFP school meals as a child, visited Congress advocating for McGovern-Dole.
Bread for the World is encouraging citizens to get involved by contacting their representatives using social media.