Three reasons you should pay attention to appropriations

Children in Zambia. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Robin Stephenson

The appropriation season got into full swing this week with the introduction of President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal. This is the time to use your voice to make sure programs that can help end hunger are funded.

A budget proposal outlines how a government wants to prioritize spending, but the rubber hits the road with appropriations or (spending bills). That is when lawmakers take a large pot of money and divide it into several smaller pots, deciding how many dollars each program receives.

The president’s proposed budget totals $4 trillion. In 2016, Bread is asking Congress to put just a small portion of that – $230 million – toward the prevention of malnutrition around the world.

This year’s 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive aims to improve the health and well-being of mothers and children through nutrition. It is estimated that 45 percent of all deaths in children under the age of five are caused by malnutrition and up to half of child stunting is caused in utero due to the mother’s malnutrition.

To take a major step toward ending hunger, we want Congress to put $230 million into the State Department Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill’s Global Health Account – the account through which USAID’s nutrition programs are funded.

If you are passionate about ending hunger, here are three important reasons you should pay attention to the appropriations process:

  1. Stunting is not an incurable disease; it is a result of malnutrition. Worldwide, 1 in 4 children suffers from stunting because they are not getting the right nutrients in their diet. 159 million children suffer health, education, and economic consequences of chronic malnutrition. Increasing global nutrition funding is a major step toward ending stunting.
  2. Pregnancy need not be a death sentence.  Every two minutes, a woman dies from complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Iron deficiency, or anemia, is a top cause of maternal deaths and easily preventable through good nutrition. About 40 percent of women in developing countries are anemic. Increasing global nutrition is a major step toward ending preventable maternal deaths.
  3. Appropriators will make quick decisions. If regular order is followed this year, which is expected, then both chambers should have agreed upon and passed their appropriation bills by June 30. During an election year, agreement between the chambers and voting on final passage may drag out longer, but the spending bills should be written by then. That means that as anti-hunger advocates, our window of opportunity to influence decision makers is short. Increasing global nutrition funding is a major step toward ending hunger by 2030, so we must seize the opportunity.

An investment of $230 million is miniscule when considering a $4 trillion proposed budget; it seems even smaller knowing that support for nutrition could reach 27 million women and children.

For the faithful, we know that God calls us to care for people who are hungry, with women and children the most vulnerable to hunger (Isaiah 58:7). Perhaps putting our faith into action should be the only motivator we need.

The clock is ticking.  

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

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