Thursday, May 23, 2013

Senator Leahy Responds to Our Questions on Food Aid Reform

While in D.C., I talked to representatives from both Representative Peter Welch's office and Senator Bernie Sanders' office about the importance of supporting the President's Proposal to Reform Food Aid. Both Welch's aide and Sanders' aide said they were fully onboard with feeding more hungry people on the same budget. Unfortunately, we could not get an appointment with anybody in Senator Patrick Leahy's office, but we were able to drop off some information about the Food Aid reforms that we believe are critical to helping to feed 17 million more people than we already do with less waste for the same cost.

We were sad not to hear from Leahy after our visit, but with several follow-up calls from well-spoken volunteers, we did finally receive a reply from Leahy's office. The good news is that he also wants to see improved efficiency in the way that the U.S. delivers foreign aid. We just want to make sure that we are included in the list of "public and private sector partners" that he mentions. We also want to promote the "sweeping changes" that we know will help produce 53% less waste and ultimately save lives and grow positive attitudes towards the U.S. abroad.

We're excited to have our congressional representation here in Vermont reflect our own beliefs, and we look forward to communicating with them further as there are more developments in the fight to end food inequality and help stem global poverty.

Here's what Leahy's office wrote:

Dear Ms. Lovegrove:  
Thank you for contacting me about improving the efficiency and quality of international food aid. 
On May 7, 2013, I held an oversight hearing in my role as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations on the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Fiscal Year 2014 budget request. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah testified and answered questions regarding the economic and humanitarian impacts of food aid reform both at home and abroad and specifically addressed monetization. Administrator Shah stated that shifting away from monetization and toward local capacity building will not only help avert local product displacement, but save on shipping costs and improve the delivery time of food aid in emergency situations. Like you, I support USAID's goal of increasing efficiencies in international food aid programs to save money and feed more hungry people. While there are strong, competing views on the issue and I am doubtful that we will achieve the sweeping reforms USAID proposes in a single year, I will continue to work with the Department of Agriculture, USAID, and other public and private sector partners to address the inefficiencies in monetization and provide greater resources for local and regional purchase of food. 
United States Senator

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The David Wax Museum Show: Helping to Improve Foreign Aid

The David Wax Museum was generous enough to let us be at their concert last week at Higher Ground. The band has been a great supporter of Oxfam since David Wax interned with Oxfam several years ago. Needless to say, he is dedicated to the organization. He was also a very friendly guy, who was open and kind to the many fans who showed up for the concert.

We were there to see a great show, but also to gain signatures for a petition to reform US food aid. Thanks to the insight and outstanding new policies suggested in the President’s budget proposal for FY14, we have the exciting opportunity to overhaul the out-dated foreign aid delivery systems that have been in place since 1955. This is a giant leap to bring poverty and food aid policies into the 21st century.

Federal politicians from both sides of the aisle have committed to keep an open mind to these policies, that will greatly increase efficiencies in foreign aid. However, to take politicians from considering to voting in favor of these programs require your help. We were able to gain almost fifty signatures at the show, but lobbying groups are drowning our voice, and we need all of the support that we can get. You can help by sending a note to Congress here.

In the meantime if you would like to get information on the revolutionary aid policies from other organizations that from across the ideological spectrum, check out these informative links: