In a stunning development, members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night voted to strip virtually all funding ($1 billion) from the U.S. Food for Peace program. Food for Peace is the U.S. tool for fighting hunger overseas to promote stability and development.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah-3) proposed the amendment, which although approved Tuesday, was subsequently defeated Wednesday in a roll call vote by a margin of 338-83.
Supporters of the amendment to eliminate Food for Peace funding included Steve Chabot of Cincinnati, Ohio, Eric Cantor (VA), John Mica (FL), and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. The complete roll call vote results are available here.
Several other amendments put forward also tried to reduce funding for Food for Peace and the McGovern-Dole international school meals program. These amendments were also defeated.
Nora O'Connell of Save the Children says, "As much as some politicians wish it were otherwise, it’s not even feasible to balance our budget on the backs of the world’s most vulnerable children and families. Humanitarian and poverty-focused programs make up only one half of one percent of the U.S. budget.”
Save the Children currently has Food For Peace programs in Bangladesh, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Yemen, and Indonesia.
Since WWII the Food for Peace initiative has been a foundation for American foreign policy, feeding the hungry to promote world stability and development. It was officially signed into being as Public Law 480 by President Dwight Eisenhower.
However, recent budget proposals put forward by the House are trying to reduce funding for Food for Peace. With nearly one billion people hungry worldwide and high food prices, now is not the time to cut hunger fighting programs.
Cutting these programs harms America's own national security. Hunger and malnutrition threaten peace in Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, and other countries where U.S. foreign policy interests are at stake. You cannot win peace when people are hungry and desperate.
Congress may be eager to cut programs, but why go after essential ones that only represent a very tiny percent of the budget? If anything, Food for Peace should be given a boost in funding to help our foreign policy.
Even with the amendments defeated the struggle has just begun over the FY 2012 budget. The budget the House of Representatives has on the table now would still cut around $500 million from Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole.
For more information on the congressional cuts to food aid visit the World Food Program USA.