AJWS President Joins Fast to Challenge Congress’s Proposed Food Aid Cuts

Ruth Messinger Will Fast with Broad Coalition of Faith and Human Rights Leaders

New York, NY; March 28, 2011—Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), an international development and human rights organization, is fasting this week to protest cuts to the U.S.’s humanitarian aid budget being voted on in Congress. The week-long fast, which Messinger will undertake along with Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, and a coalition of religious and human rights leaders, aims to call attention to global hunger and the impact that Congress’s proposed aid cuts will have on impoverished communities.

“I’m fasting to protest the injustice of reducing food aid by 41 percent and reducing support for agricultural development,” said AJWS president Ruth Messinger. “The timing couldn’t be worse: skyrocketing food prices are currently driving tens of millions of people in the developing world into poverty. Congress’s proposed budget cuts threaten lives. Not only will less food aid get to people who rely on it, but, ironically, those who do receive this meager aid may become dependent on it, because these budget cuts also threaten programs that support local agriculture and help people produce food on their own.”

In the coming weeks, Congress will be finalizing the federal budget. The House of Representatives recently passed a version that calls for a 41 percent reduction in food aid and a 30 percent cut to development assistance which includes programs that invest in agriculture to help countries build capacity to feed their own populations.

As foreign assistance makes up less than one percent of the U.S.’s federal budget, many international development groups, including AJWS, believe that cutting these aid programs will do little, if nothing, to address the U.S.’s fiscal problems. Instead, it will only endanger more lives abroad. More than 18 million people currently rely on food aid programs and millions more depend on U.S. funds for agricultural and rural development support. Additionally, food prices have jumped almost 15 percent since October, placing further strain on people in developing countries.

AJWS and the Hunger Fast campaign invite the public to join them in protesting Congress’s proposed cuts to food security funding. AJWS is also engaging participants to write letters to their members of Congress voicing their concern about this issue.

The following organizations are participating in the Hunger Fast with AJWS: Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, Congressional Hunger Center, Feeding America, Food for the Hungry, Islamic Relief USA, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Mazon, Meals on Wheels Association of America, New Manna Inc., ONE, Society of Saint Andrew, Sojourners and World Food Program USA.  

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