NOTE: This is a guest post from Victoria Marzilli, a New Media Specialist at Oxfam America.
Is food aid just a game to politicians in Washington? The way the US Food Aid system works now, you might think so. Only 0.05% of the Federal budget goes to food aid programs; in 2010, that aid helped save the lives of about 65 million people in 48 countries. Helping hungry people during food crises is essential not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it reduces instability around the world and protects the most vulnerable communities from catastrophe.
But the current US food aid system is broken and needs to be fixed. Of the money we spend on food aid, more than half (53 percent) is wasted because of special interest regulations — like buying food from preferred US growers and shipping overseas on preferred US vessels — instead of helping the people who need it most.
With last year’s drought and subsequent food crisis in West Africa, shouldn’t we make sure our food aid dollars are being used wisely to prevent crises like this from recurring? There is a way. If we buy food aid locally in developing countries, more money goes to actual food, local farmers earn income, and people need less aid for the long term. This also eliminates the expenses of buying from costly growers, and shipping overseas. If we reform costly US regulations, we can respond to crises up to 14 weeks faster — and for the same price, we can reach up to 17.1 million more people with lifesaving food aid.
Fixing the system seems like a no-brainer, but in order to make these changes happen, we as Americans need to make sure our legislators hear us loud and clear. We need to tell them to stop playing with other people’s food! And we have the opportunity to do that right now. The food aid regulations are a part of the US Farm Bill, which is up for debate in Congress this summer, so the time is now to make your voice heard.
Join Oxfam America in calling on Congress to cut the red tape in the Farm Bill and reform the food aid system. Watch this video, below, and share it with your friends. Then tell Congress to stop playing with other people’s food. We grow enough food on this planet to ensure everyone has enough to eat, but political obstacles, like unnecessary food aid regulations, get in the way.
Go to www.oxfamamerica.org/foodaid to take action.
Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. To join our efforts or learn more, go to www.oxfamamerica.org.
Photo by Hill Holliday / Oxfam America