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Interview: Oxfam’s Megan Whitacre on Supporting the Global Food Security Act

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Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana says, “Achieving food security for all people…would have profound implications for peace and U.S. national security. Hungry people are desperate people, and desperation often sows the seeds of conflict and extremism.”

Lugar, along with Senator Bob Casey (PA), has co-sponsored the Global Food Security Act (S. 384). There is ample reason for the Senate to pass this bill swiftly. There are nearly one billion people suffering from hunger worldwide. Hunger is crushing millions in Pakistan following massive flooding. Funding for the World Food Programme and other agencies remains low.

Yemen, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and many other countries face their own food emergencies. The U.S. has to step up its leadership role to face this massive crisis. That is what the Global Food Security Act aims to achieve through the creation of a special coordinator to oversee the U.S. response to hunger.  Along with this top-level food ambassador, the bill emphasizes agriculture, rural development, and nutrition.

Oxfam America is rallying support nationwide for passage of the Global Food Security Act. Within Senator Lugar’s own home state, the Oxfam chapter at Ball State University is taking a leading role. Megan Whitacre, a junior majoring in Political Science, leads the group. Megan recently took time to discuss what the group is doing to advocate for the Global Food Security Act. She also discusses how everyone can get involved.

Tell us about some of the activities your group is holding to build support for the Global Food Security Act?

Within the Ball State chapter of Oxfam America, we reviewed summaries of the Global Food Security Act and discussed how it will help developing nations combat food insecurity. We then held an event for the larger Ball State community during football tailgating on October 16th for World Food Day. The event was a national movement through Oxfam America to “Sow the Seed,” and teach people how Climate Change is affecting poor communities the hardest.

At the event we collected signatures on postcards that will be sent to Senator Evan Bayh, and created a banner on which people could put their handprint, or “make their mark” on the world. The postcards urge Senator Bayh to pass the Global Food Security Act and pressure President Obama to establish a fair, accessible, and accountable global climate fund in Cancun later this year.

This was a great opportunity for the Ball State community in particular to connect climate change to hunger. Ball State University is a leader among higher education institutions to “go green,” the most significant contribution being the switch from coal to geothermal energy.

Lacking on campus however is the connection between climate change and hunger. We are working locally to bring awareness through events, and nationally by advocating for the Global Food Security Act. Our next event will be a Hunger Banquet held November 18th, which will focus particularly on the Pakistan floods, climate change, and hunger. At the event, students will be given the opportunity to write to our newly elected Senator (replacing Senator Bayh), or Representative Pence from the sixth congressional district in Indiana. Next semester we plan to actually lobby Representative Pence on the legislation at one of his offices. We hope our events will bring awareness to the community and empower students to take political action regarding food insecurity.

The Oxfam America chapter at Ball State University is calling for passage of the Global Food Security Act to fight global hunger.

What has been the response on campus so far to your efforts? Do you feel there is a growing awareness of global hunger and the need for U.S. leadership through this legislation?

I believe there is significant understanding among our generation about global hunger and inequality. Globalization and the advancement of technology have brought innumerable benefits, including the spread of news and global awareness. Our actions on campus have led us to believe this is true. We have been overwhelmed and surprised at the high response from students and community members regarding political action.

Have you received any feedback from the legislators who will be voting on this bill?

Our Oxfam America Ball State Chapter has not yet contacted our legislators on this bill. We are planning to take the postcards we made to Senator Bayh’s in-district office early in November. Copies of the postcards are also being sent to his D.C. office. We leave out Indiana’s other senator, Senator Lugar, because he is actually the bill’s sponsor. That makes it more exciting for us in Indiana, because while we are being politically active and lobbying, we also get to support Senator Lugar.

Once mid-terms dwindle and our members can relax, we will write to Senator Lugar to applaud his efforts and make him aware of our support at Ball State. We do anticipate a response from him. However, we are most looking forward to the response from Representative Pence after our lobby visit. As one of the top-20 Republicans in the House, his support would be extremely beneficial to passage of the Global Food Security Act.

What would you recommend to a student wanting to get involved in supporting the Global Food Security Act? What if there is no group similar to yours on their campus?

To students who want to get involved, I would say don’t shy away from political action. We are blessed in this country to have a voice in government, and by not using it you give your share to someone else.

There are a few things you can do individually, or as a group: Write a short letter to your local politician supporting the bill. You do not have to be an expert, but if a community can show concern for global hunger and poverty our leaders are more likely to support relevant legislation.

If you do not have the time to write a letter, call the Congressional Switchboard (202) 224-3121, ask for your Senator’s office, and leave a short message explaining the hunger crisis and ask for their support on the Global Food Security Act. It’s really easy, and only takes about two minutes!

If you are a little more daring and committed to change, get a group of people together and hold a meeting with your Congressman or Senator to review the act and ask for their support. Make sure to check out Thomas.gov to see whether your representatives have already co-sponsored the bill.

These can all be tailored to fit your needs, whether it be for a group project, a class presentation, a club event, or just something you want as an engaged and active citizen. Any action is better than no action at all.

Visit Oxfam America’s take action page on the Global Food Security Act.

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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.