Coalition Demands Urgent Action to Address Domestic and Global Food Insecurity
Washington, D.C.; February 29, 2012 – As discussions around the 2012 U.S. Farm Bill ramp up, Jewish organizations seized the opportunity to call for reforms to advance a values-inspired vision of food justice. Members of the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group — American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL), Hazon, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (MAZON) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) — convened on Capitol Hill today for a briefing with congressional staff and other interested parties to discuss U.S. food and agricultural policies. The group urged Congress to enact policies that pursue long-term approaches to eradicating hunger by protecting food-insecure populations, promoting sustainable land use, and investing in stable local food systems at home and abroad.
The Jewish Farm Bill Working Group has collected more than 15,000 signatures to date for its Jewish Petition for a Just Farm Bill, which presents a communal voice advocating for a better food system. During today’s briefing, the group unveiled its Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill, a statement of principles endorsed by twelve Jewish organizations including representation from the four largest denominations (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist).
“Our working group represents a diverse cross section of Jewish advocacy, denominational and educational organizations coming together to call for just and sustainable agriculture policies both in the U.S. and abroad, ” said Ruth Messinger, president of AJWS. “For AJWS, as an organization working in the Horn of Africa and other food insecure regions around the world, we see a vital need to reform food aid in the next farm bill so that our tax dollars are more effectively used to reverse hunger.”
Today’s briefing capped off a week of Jewish food issue activism on Capitol Hill. Earlier this week, more than 50 young Jewish activists who participated in AJWS global volunteer programs lobbied their members of Congress for food aid reform. The volunteer meetings supported this week’s policy paper release from AJWS entitled, The Time is Ripe for Food Aid Reform.
MAZON, together with hundreds of anti-hunger advocates from across the country, met to discuss the myriad challenges facing food insecure people in America and then spent a day meeting with members of Congress to urge support for, and preservation of, the nutrition safety net.
The JCPA participated together with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), beneficiaries and other anti-hunger leaders at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Tuesday calling for the protection of funding for and access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
While the farm bill may seem an unlikely target for a groundswell of Jewish activism, this omnibus legislation, which dictates U.S. law on everything from crop insurance to food stamps to biofuels, is packed with policies that have deep connections to Jewish ethics. Each organization in the Jewish Farm Bill Working Group is focused on reforming a different aspect of the bill, but all member organizations are working collaboratively to maximize their collective power and mobilize their constituents toward a common goal.
“The JCPA calls upon Congress to reject attacks on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program , whose funding has been in jeopardy in recent years, and instead find ways to expand access to this effective and critical human needs program,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the JCPA. “As our rabbis have taught: ‘If all the other possible troubles were assembled on one side and poverty on the other, poverty would outweigh them all’ (Midrash on Exodus). We have an opportunity to tip the balance and address hunger and poverty on a large scale through the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.”
Rabbi Harold J. Kravitz, incoming Board Chair of MAZON, continues: “There is much more we can do, especially through the titles in the Farm Bill, to address our nation’s hunger challenges. We believe the next farm bill can – and should – take inspiration from the Jewish values of tzedakah and tikkun olam, and in so doing, ensure equitable access to healthy nutritious food for all Americans.”
To read the Jewish Platform for a Just Farm Bill, please visit www.ajws.org/jewishplatform.
American Jewish World Service
Inspired by Judaism’s commitment to justice, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world. www.ajws.org
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)
The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) deepens and broadens the Jewish community’s commitment to stewardship and protection of the Earth through outreach, activism and Jewish learning. Through a network of Jewish leaders, institutions and individuals, COEJL is mobilizing the Jewish community to conserve energy, increase sustainability, and advocate for policies that increase energy efficiency and security while building core Jewish environmental knowledge and serving as a Jewish voice in the broader interfaith community.
Hazon seeks to create healthier, more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond. www.hazon.org
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs serves as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community in addressing the principal mandate of the Jewish community relations field and works to repair the world through Jewish activism. www.jewishpublicaffairs.org
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger
MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. www.mazon.org
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) connects Reform Jewish communities in North America to create a dynamic network of congregants, lay leaders, clergy and professionals. The URJ includes more than 900 congregations encompassing 1.5 million Reform Jews. www.urj.org
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David L. Marcus