With nearly one billion people suffering from hunger worldwide, members of Congress are pushing for $544 million in cuts to international food aid. The World Food Program USA says the reductions would likely include cutting the Food for Peace program by about $450 million (from $1.7 billion to roughly $1.25 billion) and the McGovern-Dole International School Meals Program by about $100 million (from $210 million to roughly $100 million).
These cuts, which represent a tiny portion of the budget, would devastate America’s foreign policy goals. Already hunger relief missions in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan, and other countries are facing dramatic funding shortages.
Hunger is on the march, as we saw in recent protests in Egypt where high food prices and malnutrition cause great suffering among the population.
Global hunger programs make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the entire U.S. budget. (chart courtesy of the World Food Program USA).
With such high rates of hunger and malnutrition, how do we expect peace, reconstruction, or economies to develop? Food is the foundation for all these things, but tragically the Congress does not emphasize this crucial aspect of our foreign policy.
Even without the cuts, the amounts spent on food aid are a relatively small expense. In 2008 for instance, the U.S. spent $52 billion on nuclear weapons-related programs, a figure which dwarfs any spending on food aid. Elise Foley of the Huffington Post reports that the new budget proposal actually includes “$312 million more for nuclear weapons infrastructure than 2010 funding.”
But no such increase is planned for international food aid programs in the latest House budget. The World Food Program USA released a statement yesterday urging “the House of Representatives to maintain the longstanding bipartisan support for our vital global hunger programs… Otherwise we will see more suffering, hunger, and loss of life among millions of the world’s poorest people, as well as increased unrest and instability across the developing world.”
Other organizations endorsing the statement include the Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, CARE, the Congressional Hunger Center, Mercy Corps, the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, and World Vision.
Visit the World Food Program USA action alert page for contacting Congress.