AJWS: Congress Misses Historic Opportunity To Reform International Food Aid

WASHINGTON, DC — American Jewish World Service released the following statement today after the House of Representatives failed to pass the Royce-Engel Food Aid Reform Amendment.

“Tragically, Congress missed an historic opportunity today to fix our international food aid program,” said Timi Gerson, director of advocacy for AJWS. “The bipartisan Royce-Engel Food Aid Reform Amendment would have helped at least four million more hungry people get life-saving access to food aid. Unfortunately, today’s vote leaves the status quo in place, which means we will continue to spend more food aid dollars to reach fewer hungry people around the world. The U.S. supplies approximately half of all food aid worldwide yet our Eisenhower-era program is outdated. There is an average delay of three to four months in delivery of food aid shipped from the U.S., a time lag that is a matter of life or death. Yet Congress did not take the steps necessary to streamline the program to make it more cost-effective and efficient.

“Despite the outcome, today’s vote was an historic one. For the first time ever, a floor vote was held on food aid reform and it brought together a broad range of support among members from across the political and geographic spectrum during a time when bipartisanship is rare.

“While the self-interested supporters of the status quo have won this battle, but we will continue to work with members of Congress to enact meaningful food aid reform and to fight to reduce hunger and improve access to food worldwide. When almost one billion people around the world go hungry every day, making every food aid dollar count is not only a responsible use of taxpayer money, it is a moral imperative. We thank House Foreign Affairs committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel for their courageous leadership in recognizing the critical need for food aid reform, and we appreciate the many Members who supported their amendment. Unfortunately the majority of their colleagues were not willing to stand up for policy that saves lives and taxpayer dollars,” Gerson said.

The Royce-Engel Food Aid Reform Amendment would have updated the Food for Peace program to provide greater flexibility and help more people with our overseas food assistance without spending any additional U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013 (the Farm Bill), including an amendment that would create a permanent $300 million program to buy food from small-scale farmers in developing countries, boosting agricultural economies and securing long-term, local food sources. While the Senate bill made incremental steps toward reform, it did not achieve the type of comprehensive modernization of the program that was included in the Royce-Engel Food Aid Reform Amendment.

For the almost two years, American Jewish World Service, along with a coalition of leading international development, humanitarian and advocacy groups, has worked with members of Congress to reverse global hunger by reforming the current Food for Peace program to make it more effective at reaching hungry people today while creating a hunger-free world tomorrow.

For More Information

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.