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Interview: Bruce White of Catholic Relief Services on the Roadmap to End Global Hunger

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With over one billion people suffering from hunger worldwide, it is clear that the United States and the international community need to act. The U.S. Congress can show leadership by supporting new legislation put forth by Reps. Jim McGovern (MA) and Jo Ann Emerson (MO). The bill, H.R. 2817, is known as the Roadmap to End Global Hunger.

The legislation would establish a global hunger advisor for President Obama. This is very important as hunger is a critical aspect of almost every foreign policy issue we face.

In Iraq, for instance, what if the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is unable to receive enough funding for a school lunch program for impoverished children? We would lose an important building block for that country if that WFP program does not receive the attention it deserves. There are many other examples — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan — of how crucial food is for peace and progress. Just look at the recent refugee crisis in Pakistan and how hunger threatens stability in that country.

A global hunger advisor in the White House could coordinate U.S. policy and international cooperation to effectively meet the challenge of hunger around the globe. It would place the struggle against hunger right in the forefront of American foreign policy, where it belongs.

Recently, Bruce White, a food aid expert from Catholic Relief Services, took some time to talk about the Roadmap to End Global Hunger.

The Food and Agriculture Organization released a statement that over a billion people worldwide suffer from hunger. Can the Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation solve this growing world hunger crisis?

The legislation is seen as one step in a larger plan. If passed and enacted into law, it would set up a White House Office on Hunger and a bicameral Select Committee on Hunger; this is part of the solution. Other necessary components are with the appropriations process and perhaps some additional authorization is also needed.

What would be the significance of creating a global hunger advisor to serve in the White House with President Obama? Do you believe this will elevate the fight against hunger in terms of foreign policy priorities?

Absolutely. The US currently has an office that addresses chronic hunger issues, the Office of Food for Peace, which is tucked inside the US Agency for International Development. The Office of Food for Peace manages many of the US food aid programs and has very little authority over cash resources. It has neither the authority nor the funding to adequately deal with the complexity of chronic hunger around the world, including all the related factors like engaging national governments on a wide range of issues: agriculture and nutrition policies, setting up better nutrition activities in US foreign assistance programs, making sure our own international agriculture and safety net programs are effectively reaching the poor.

There are also many US Government agencies that have a potential hand in addressing global hunger. Unless the US Government leads from the top, the issue of hunger will continue to be buried within the bureaucracy and be subject to perpetual interagency battles that currently hamper our efforts to make a significant dent in the problem.

 

Local food prices in Afghanistan have soared so much that in some parts of the country people at times have had to spend 85 percent of their income on food alone.

Does President Obama support the Roadmap to End Hunger? How is support generally across Congress at this time?

We have had several meaningful discussions with the State Department, USDA, and USAID as well as Congress. We know that the Obama Administration is embracing a comprehensive response to global hunger, which is a cornerstone of the Roadmap effort. Without hearing about any specific support, I think it is safe to say that we're on the same page.

Regarding Congress, it is less clear. When you are trying to come up with a new plan, a comprehensive plan that requires new thinking, you are going to step on some toes. The Roadmap effort operates across congressional jurisdictions of agriculture and foreign affairs. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

What can a citizen do to make sure that the Roadmap to End Hunger legislation gets passed in Congress?

Now that we have a bill, it's important to try to get bipartisan support by first getting more cosponsors and then getting votes as the legislation moves within Congress.

When can we expect a vote on the Roadmap to End Global Hunger legislation?

I really don't know. We'll see how this gets addressed within the committees. Stay tuned.

The Friends of the World Food Program have set up a take-action page to get the Roadmap to End Hunger bill passed. You can reach this page by clicking here.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.
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