Critical Reforms to International Food Aid Pass Congress as Part of Farm Bill

American Jewish World Service Fought for and Lauds Progress in Helping Poor Countries Feed Themselves

New York, NY-American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international development and human rights organization, applauds the new reforms to the United States’ international food aid programs passed today by the U.S. Senate as part of the Agricultural Act of 2014, known as the Farm Bill.

“We celebrate the passage of these new bipartisan reforms to our country’s international food aid, because they represent an important step forward in ensuring that food reaches those in need faster and cheaper, while supporting local farmers and economies in poor countries, ” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS.

“As a country that provides roughly half of all food aid worldwide, America plays a key role in feeding the hungry and saving lives around the globe. AJWS advocated for reforms to U.S. food aid policy because we believed it was our responsibility, as Americans and as Jews, to challenge the injustice of hunger and champion the right of all people to access life-saving assistance in times of crisis. We worked with many others in advocating for this new legislation to make sure U.S. policies reflect our deepest values. We are gratified to see that it contains a more flexible approach to food aid that includes investing in local food production, which will enable farmers around the world to raise themselves out of poverty.

“We commend Senators Stabenow and Cochran and Representatives Lucas and Peterson for ensuring these critical provisions were included in the final Farm Bill, as well as House Foreign Affairs Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for recognizing the critical need for food aid reform and working tirelessly to ensure its passage. These reforms undoubtedly move us in the right direction,” said Messinger.

The food aid reform provisions of the Farm Bill will make it easier to utilize new, alternative approaches to food assistance, such as buying food close to affected regions overseas rather than shipping American-grown food abroad. Additionally, it will give the U.S. resources to move away from current inefficient practices that slow down delivery and undermine the goal of helping people for the long-term.

Specifically, the provisions:

  • Promote local purchase of food, allowing food to arrive sooner, bypassing expensive shipping fees and investing in local farmers and economies. The bill authorizes $80 million per year for these types of investments.
  • Provides almost double the amount of direct funding to non-governmental organizations working to help vulnerable communities increase their food security and address poverty.

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 U.S. Farm Bill two years ago, 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 a historic (the first-ever) vote for food aid reform in the full House of Representatives this summer. Although this proposal did not pass out of the House of Representatives, an astounding 203 Members of Congress went on record supporting food aid reform, which paved the way for today’s passage of reforms in the Farm Bill Conference Report.

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