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Looking Ahead: The 112th Congress

Engaging Lawmakers

December 2010

As Congress winds down its 111th session, Bread for the World is preparing to launch our next Offering of Letters. The 2011 Offering focuses on winning continued improvements in U.S. development assistance that will reduce hunger and poverty.

At the beginning of each new congressional session, Bread makes special efforts to introduce the organization to new members of Congress—providing information about hunger, its causes, and how it can be reduced. The 112th Congress, set to start January 5, 2011, is no exception. In fact, Bread members have a bigger job than usual because the new Congress will have the largest group of newcomers to the House in decades.

Bread staff is already meeting with members of Congress who serve in leadership positions or on committees with responsibility for policies that affect hungry people.

Many new members of Congress campaigned on a fiscally conservative platform because of their concerns about the federal budget deficit. Bread will need to build strong bipartisan support in Congress for social safety net programs (such as SNAP and child nutrition) and poverty-focused development assistance.

As we know, hunger and poverty are not partisan issues. In a poll for the Alliance to End Hunger done immediately after the mid-term elections, a cross-section of Americans from both parties voiced their support for many of Bread’s foreign assistance reform priorities.

Two-thirds agreed both that the United States “should take the lead in achieving international goals to reduce hunger, poverty, and disease” (i.e., the Millennium Development Goals), and that “local recipients of U.S. foreign aid should participate or have a voice in planning and executing development programs.”

Even larger majorities—about 75 percent—agreed that  “U.S. foreign aid should be expanded to help farmers in poor countries become more productive and grow more of their own food,”  and that “U.S. foreign aid can be made more effective by expanding our efforts to reduce child malnutrition.”

The poll also revealed participants’ top priority for foreign assistance reform as well as their support for specific strategies to achieve reform. Nearly 90 percent said they agreed that “foreign aid must be transparent and accountable to make sure our tax dollars are spent wisely.” About 70 percent agreed that “we need a strong, up-to-date development agency to lead in implementing U.S. foreign aid programs.”

The most important thing for Bread members and other advocates to do is to remain engaged in this post-election period. Hunger transcends political parties and we must continue to voice our concerns about hunger and poverty.

As Bread for the World President David Beckmann explained in an interview recently published in the Huffington Post, “Our country really is a democracy, so [hunger] puts a call to the faithful to get off the couch, right now!”

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