By Joyce Rothermel
As the work for food security at home and abroad continues, this year Bread for the World has two main objectives. The first is the reauthorization of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA).
Since its passage in 2016, the GFSA has strengthened the accountability, implementation and effectiveness of food security and nutrition programs in many struggling countries around the world and reinvigorated a global commitment to help people feed and nourish themselves. These vital programs combat global food insecurity by investing in agriculture development and building resilience in developing countries. By equipping communities with the tools they need to help feed themselves, our global nutrition and food security programs have increased food and nutrition security for millions of people. They do this through improved agriculture production, market access, business development, private sector competitiveness, and nutrition interventions. It was signed into law with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Now, two years later, the GFSA must be reauthorized in order to continue its important work. We learned in Washington, DC when our SW PA Bread for the World participated in the annual Bread Lobby Days, June 11-12 that the Senate’s reauthorization bill (S 2269) would reauthorize GFSA for five years while the House version (HR 5129) would expire in two years. Senator Casey was a lead co-sponsor of the bill with no commitment at the time from Sen. Toomey.
Since then, the Senate passed its bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the GFSA by voice vote on June 19 reaffirming the United States’ commitment to fighting hunger and poverty worldwide. Now, the House needs to pass the Senate’s version. With its passage in the House, the GFSA would continue to help millions of people move out of poverty, reduce the number of children suffering from malnutrition, and strengthen local and regional economies in some of the world’s poorest countries. Of course, the President’s signature will also be needed before GFSA becomes law.
The second objective that Bread is pursuing is a robust Farm Bill that maintains and strengthens the current food security programs, especially the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP). While the Senate has passed a bipartisan Farm Bill on June 28 with Sen. Casey’s leadership and support (86-11), Republicans in the House of Representatives brought back HR 2, The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, their version of the Farm Bill, to the floor for a vote for the second time on June 21. Millions of Americans count on SNAP to help put food on the kitchen table. HR 2 makes immense and cruel cuts to SNAP that will harm struggling American families. This immoral legislation failed to pass in the first vote in May. It squeaked through by a vote of 213-211 (with four members not voting). SW PA Representatives Doyle, Lamb and Rothfus all voted “Ney”.
Until a Farm Bill gets through a Conference Committee to reconcile the two bills and gets final passage in both Congressional bodies, Bread for the World is encouraging all voters to stay in touch with their Senators and Representatives reminding them that the U.S. needs to strengthen SNAP and not weaken it. Particular attention needs to be given to Senator Toomey who voted against the bipartisan Senate bill.
Here is a sample letter:
Dear Sen. _____,
As Congress works on the fiscal year 2019 budget and spending bills, I ask you to invest in and protect key programs that will reduce hunger and poverty. Our country and the world have made progress against hunger and poverty in recent decades. I want you to continue to invest in programs like SNAP and tax credits for low-income workers. Continued funding for programs that reduce hunger and poverty around the world are also important to me.
My values lead me to urge you to make public investments that will move us toward the end of hunger.
Sincerely, [your name] [your address] [city, state, ZIP]
(For the most current version of this sample letter as legislation moves through Congress, visit www.bread.org/ol)
These are the messages that members of the SW PA Bread Team took to their legislative visits in Washington, D.C. on June 12. Joining others from Pennsylvania, we met with staffers in the offices of Sen. Casey and Sen. Toomey. We also visited the offices of House members Mike Doyle and Conor Lamb and took letters to the offices of Representatives Rothfus, Kelly, Thompson and Shuster. (Reps. Kelly, Thompson and Shuster all voted for HR 2 on June 21).
The SW PA Bread Team continues its advocacy efforts by encouraging people of faith and all who respect the right to food to take action by writing letters like the sample above to their own elected Congress members. We will be seeking to elect members of Congress this fall who support policies that work to eliminate hunger domestically and internationally. If you are interested in learning more and getting involved with the SW Bread Team, contact Myra Mann, SW PA Bread Team Co-Chair at 412-882-6252.
Joyce Rothermel is Co-Chair of the SW PA Bread for the World Team.