Offering of Letters

2013 Offering of Letters

This year's OL includes both a petition to President Obama and a letter to both Senators.

Click here to view the petition.

Here's the letter:

Dear Senator ______,

I urge you to publicly support the U.S. food aid reforms that President Obama proposed in his budget request. With these common-sense reforms, our food aid program will work harder for U.S. taxpayers, and two to four million more people in need will receive life-saving help at no additional cost. 

In recent years, a number of trusted sources have shown that despite the best of intentions, current laws governing U.S. food aid make it slow to reach people in need and wasteful of taxpayer dollars. The President’s proposal would provide the U.S. with the greater flexibility to respond to hunger needs around the world. 

As a person of faith, I want to see hungry people fed, and I also want to see our nation’s resources utilized as effectively and efficiently as possible. Please support—in every way possible—the President’s proposed food aid reforms.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Your Address

 

Here's more Food Aid Reform background provided by Bread for the World:

Food Aid Reform in FY2014: a Common-Sense Proposal at the Right Time 

The Issue: Since its creation, U.S.-funded food assistance has helped feed more than one billion people in over 150 countries. But the system for providing this assistance is inflexible and does not meet today’s need.  President Obama has proposed reforms to U.S. food aidin the FY2014 budget request that will make the program work harder for U.S. taxpayers – reaching two to four million more hungry people per year with more efficient programs and without increasing spending.   

 

The Background: Our contemporary food aid system began in 1954; today, the U.S. provides in-kind donations of commodities such as corn, wheat, and soybean oil as international food aid through programs administered by USAID and USDA. The Food for Peace authorization is the chief legislative vehicle governing over 80% of food aid. In Fiscal Year 2012, the U.S. spent approximately $1.45 billion under this program feeding hungry people around the world in both emergency and non-emergency situations.  

 

In recent years, a number of trusted sources, including the GAO, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Center for Global Development, and researchers at Michigan State, Cornell, and Tufts Universities have highlighted the inefficiencies in the current system and urged the government to reform its approach to food aid.  Why? Despite the best of intentions, American food aid is too often slow reaching people in need, inefficient, and wastes money. With common-sense reforms, more people in need will receive life-saving help at no additional cost to the U.S. taxpayer.  

 

What’s wrong with the current system? 

 

  • Inefficient Procurement: The vast majority of U.S. food aid is in the form of U.S.-grown commodities, but according to a USDA’s own assessment of its pilot program to buy food aid in developing countries and surrounding regions, delivery of U.S.-grown emergency food aid takes an average of 130 days, while local procurement of emergency food aid takes an average of 56 days.  That’s a difference of two months; a lifetime when a child is starving. Local procurement also spurs local production, helping poor countries to develop their own agricultural systems that will reduce their dependence on aid. 

 

  • High Transportation Costs: In 2001 the cost per metric ton to ship food aid was approximately $390.00; today it is $1,180.00. Transportation and other overhead costs can eat up as much as 53 cents for every dollar of grains shipped. That means that less than half of the money spent on food aid is actually used for food.

 

  • ‘Monetization’ of Aid:  While the majority of U.S. food aid is for emergencies, we also provide hundreds of millions of dollars in valuable, non-emergency assistance each year through a process known as monetization.  Food is shipped to developing countries; NGOs sell that food, and use the money to administer important development projects. In 2011 the GAO called this practice, which also distorts local markets and undercuts local farmers, “inherently inefficient;” in fact, it is 25% less efficient than providing direct funding to these projects.  In FY2012, the $31.7 million lost due to the inefficiency of monetization could have fed more than 800,000 more people. The U.S. should end monetization and fund these valuable projects directly.  

 

The Proposal:

 

The President’s proposal would shift food aid funding from the Department of Agriculture to USAID, and end the inefficient practice of monetization -- funding non-emergency development projects directly.  This change would provide the U.S. with the flexibility to respond to hunger needs around the world – both emergency and non-emergency, and to address chronic food insecurity in areas of recurrent crises.  In FY2012, Food for Peace funding was $1.466 billion; while final FY2013 figures are not yet available, it is estimated that the funding level will be $1.359 billion.  For FY2014, funds would be re-allocated as proposed:

 

  • $1.1 billion in International Disaster Assistance (IDA) funds to respond to emergencies.  When added to the $300 million already in the IDA account, a total of $1.4 billion would be available for emergency food aid.  
  • $250 million for a Community Development and Resilience Fund in the Development Assistance (DA) account.  When added to $80 million already in DA to address chronic poverty, build resilience, and help prevent food crises, a total of $330 million would be available for these important programs, which have been funded through monetization of aid.  
  • $75 million for a new Emergency Food Assistance Contingency Fund for unexpected needs worldwide.

 

Reaction to the President’s Proposal:

 

“U.S. international food aid programs have long embodied the compassion of the American people.  After nearly 60 years of experience, we are encouraged by the President’s proposal to fundamentally alter our food aid program to reach more people, more quickly, at less cost.  Several recent studies have highlighted the need for reform.  We look forward to working with the Administration and our colleagues in Congress to modernize U.S. food aid programs while ensuring maximum impact and efficiency.” 

– Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA), and Eliot Engel (D-NY)

 

I am pleased the Administration is working to make food aid more efficient and effective. In a time of tight budgets, it is critical to get the best value possible for services and investments, including relieving hunger. This is an important proposal, and I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues to move toward more efficiency in food aid."

– Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee and SFOPS Subcommittee Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)

 

“Any idea that would allow the aid to be spent more wisely and get it in the hands of the deserving at a cheaper cost, within reason, I would support.” 

-Senate Appropriations SFOPS Ranking Member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

 

“By bringing more flexibility to the way we distribute food aid, our programs will save more lives, serve more hungry people and do more to advance America’s reputation and interests around the globe. In a world that continues to look to American leadership in times of crisis, there is no better time to make every dollar count.”

–Former executive director of the U.N. World Food Program Catherine Bertini and former U.S. agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman

 

“This budget reflects a strong commitment to helping the hungry in times of crisis as well as securing long-term food security for the world’s most vulnerable. The reforms the President proposes would make these critical programs more effective and efficient while expanding their reach to millions more people…Reform is long overdue and the Administration's proposal is a solid step in the right direction.  Such a policy will begin the process of making our assistance more cost effective and reducing long-term food aid dependency.”

–Statement signed by ActionAid, American Jewish World Service, Bread for the World, CARE, Church World Service, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Maryknoll, The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, ONE, Oxfam America and Partners in Health

Results from our 2012 Offering of Letters

 

Update: Check out a guest post Pastor Dave wrote about our Offering of Letters on Bread for the World's Bread Blog!

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you for hearing the call to speak and raising your voice to the tune of 94 letters to Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin!

Add to that Offering of Letters 4 more written by some of our youth at their weekly gathering and another 2 (that we know of) that were sent this week...means 100 letters sent urging our Senators to create a circle of protection around domestic nutrition programs vital to hungry and poor people all over the United States!

In case you missed it, read on for pictures from Sunday, a glossary of some terms used, and the sample letter.

The Offering of Letters can continue! Simply write a letter using as much of the sample letter as you like, then let us know you sent it using the comments section below. If you live in Illinois, mail the letter to:

The Office of Sen. Mark Kirk
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

OR


The Office of Sen. Richard Durbin
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

SAMPLE LETTER:

DATE

Dear Sen. _____,

I ask you to stand up for hungry and poor people in the United States by protecting funding for domestic nutrition programs that alleviate hunger and help lift Americans out of poverty. While we must work to reduce our deficit, our choices must not hurt those whom Jesus called the least among us.

Domestic nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), are effective in fighting hunger. While poverty and unemployment increased in the last three years, these programs have kept the number of families struggling to put food on the table from going up any higher.

Cuts to programs such as SNAP and WIC will put millions of American families at risk of hunger. More than 44 million Americans currently participate in SNAP, and nearly 9 million women and young children participate in WIC. Cutting these programs won’t significantly reduce the budget deficit but could increase costs in the long run. Hunger already costs our country an estimated $167 billion annually in lost productivity, reduced educational outcomes, and increased healthcare costs.

I urge you to form a circle of protection around funding for domestic nutrition programs that help meet the nutritional needs of millions of American families.

Sincerely,

YOUR NAME

YOUR ADDRESS

GLOSSARY OF TERMS:

Bread for the World (Bread): A non-profit collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.

Offering of Letters (OL): A collection of letters written to members of Congress advocating for policies that help end hunger in the U.S. and around the world.

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps): supplements the food budgets of the neediest people through a card that can be used at grocery stores or other authorized locations. 85% of SNAP benefits go to families with incomes below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four in 2010). SNAP served more than 40 million Americans in 2010.

WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children): safeguards the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 by providing monthly packages of food that supply nutrients lacking in their diets. WIC also provides information on healthy eating, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care. Families with incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level ($40,409 for a family of four in 2010) can participate. WIC served more than 9 million women and children in 2010.

 

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on April 25, 2012 @ 12:21 PM

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