Bipartisan Senate Bill Reignites Drive Toward International Food Aid Reform

American Jewish World Service applauds introduction of bill to overhaul outdated international food aid program

NEW YORK, NY- Efforts to reform the United States’ outdated international food aid system gained a significant boost today when Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) and African Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014. American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, applauds the introduction of this bipartisan piece of legislation, which would help the U.S.’s food aid program reach more hungry people worldwide and make it more cost-effective.

“America plays a vital role in feeding the hungry and saving lives around the globe. But our current approach to aiding some of the poorest communities in the world is preventing us from responding as efficiently at a time when the need is great,” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “We still have a long way to go to ensure that our tax dollars are used to their maximum effect to feed hungry people in some of the poorest countries in the world, despite the fact that important, yet modest reforms were made to our food aid programs as part of the recently passed Farm Bill.

“The introduction of the Food for Peace Reform Act in the United States Senate is an ambitious step towards reforming our international food aid system and to meet the needs of hungry people by ensuring that U.S. support could be used to purchase food locally rather than relying so heavily on shipments from the United States. We applaud Senator Corker and Senator Coons for their leadership in introducing this bill, their commitment to smart foreign aid investments and their exemplary model of bipartisan cooperation to bring an end to global hunger,” Messinger said.

If passed, the Food for Peace Reform Act would significantly change the U.S.’s largest international food aid program, Food for Peace, by removing cumbersome restrictions that require the shipment of food from the U.S. to overseas locations instead of purchasing food locally and would have the added benefit of supporting local farmers. Additionally, by authorizing the Food for Peace program under the Foreign Assistance Act, the bill would move jurisdiction for the program from the Senate Agriculture Committee to the Foreign Relations Committee, thereby aligning food aid policy with the broader portfolio of other U.S. international assistance and humanitarian programs.

A report by AJWS and Oxfam America estimates that reforms similar to those outlined in the Food for Peace Reform Act could allow U.S. food aid dollars to reach up to 17 million more people.

About AJWS and its work on food aid reform

For decades, AJWS has made grants to grassroots organizations in the developing world to improve food security in their own communities. In the run-up to the congressional debate over the most recent U.S. Farm Bill, AJWS launched its Reverse Hunger campaign, working with U.S. activists to urge Congress to reform the nation’s international food aid programs to make them more efficient and cost effective and to ensure that U.S. food aid helps reduce hunger in the long-term.

Through Reverse Hunger, AJWS mobilized thousands of supporters, worked with dozens of coalition partners and helped secure some significant steps forward in the fight to reform U.S. international food aid, advancing legislation that would feed more people at lower cost with food purchased locally from farmers in developing countries.

Following a year of action by AJWS and allied organizations, the White House produced a comprehensive proposal to reform food aid, after which Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) successfully led the push for the first-ever vote for food-aid reform in the House of Representatives. Although this proposal did not pass out of the House of Representatives, an impressive 203 Members of Congress went on record supporting food aid reform, paving the way for modest food aid reforms to be passed as part of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).

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